Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell broke little new ground during their third of four formal debates in the Virginia gubernatorial race.
During the so-called "People's Debate" in Richmond on Monday night, the candidates reiterated their differing plans for transportation and continued to attack one another on the main issues that have dominated the race.
Democrat Deeds, a state senator from Bath County, said McDonnell continues to "lie" about Deeds' record and tried to highlight his opponent's positions on social issues.
Republican McDonnell, the former attorney general, skirted questions about his conservative social positions while trying to paint Deeds as a classic tax-and-spend liberal.
As he has throughout the campaign, McDonnell said he is "the only candidate with a plan for transportation." He has proposed a number of specific, tax-free options he says will create more transportation dollars, including using royalties from offshore oil drilling, selling state liquor stores and using some general fund dollars.
Deeds called McDonnell's revenue estimates from such measures "phony baloney," and said, as he often does, that his own transportation plan is the only "honest" proposal. Deeds wants to bring together a bipartisan commission to come up with a plan that could pass both the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democrat-controlled state Senate.
"I've got the leadership it takes to fix transportation," Deeds said.
McDonnell countered that Deeds' only solution is to raise taxes to fund roads. Deeds has previously said he would sign a bill that includes tax and fee increases to fund transportation and that he would not support moving money from the state's general fund to pay for transportation needs.
"He's taken everything off the table except tax increases," McDonnell said.
Moderator Judy Woodruff, of PBS' NewsHour, asked the candidates early in the debate if they would commit to having a 50 percent female cabinet if elected.
Deeds, who has made much of McDonnell's graduate thesis, in which the Repbublican stated that working mothers are detrimental to society, said he would try to hire a diverse, highly qualified staff.
"Government should look like the people we represent," Deeds said. "My cabinet will be the most diverse in the state's history."
McDonnell, as he often does when asked about women in the workplace, talked about the working women in his immediate family. He said he will hire and appoint people "solely based on merit."
As to another part of the question, about whether equal pay is always required, McDonnell said "it's already the federal law; of course I would enforce that."
McDonnell was similarly indirect in his response to a question about renewing an executive order that prohibits workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian state employees. As attorney general, he opposed the order on constitutional grounds.
Deeds said he would renew Gov. Tim Kaine's executive order expanding the definition of workplace discrimination.
Both candidates essentially dodged questions asking for specifics about how they will fund and improve core services like Medicaid and education given the difficult economic climate.
On Medicaid, both said there is room for improvement in the state system, but did not offer suggestions as to how to improve coverage without a significant influx of cash, beyond "looking for efficiencies." Virginia is ranked 49th in the nation for Medicaid spending.
"Only the poorest and sickest people in the country qualify for Medicaid in Virginia, and yet it's one of the drivers of our budget," Deeds said.
The candidates have both placed a great importance on increasing the number of Virginians who graduate from state universities each year. Both said the state needs to grow its economy before it can provide more education funding.
"We're not going to slice up the pie differently, we're going to make the pie bigger," McDonnell said.
The candidates are set to have one final debate on Tuesday in Roanoke.