By Peter Hamby
CNN Political Reporter
(CNN) — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell should consider resigning in the face of federal and state investigations into lavish gifts he and his family received from a wealthy executive, the two men running to succeed McDonnell said during a debate Saturday.
Neither of the candidates, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, issued an outright call for McDonnell to leave office when asked about the controversy by the debate’s moderator. But both said he should at least contemplate stepping down.
“While that question is appropriate to ask Gov. McDonnell, and it is appropriate to ask him to think about that, I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask for the sitting attorney general to address it when I started one of the investigations,” Cuccinelli said.
McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he was reluctant to “pre-judge” the ongoing investigations before all the facts are known, but added: “I would agree with the attorney general that he should consider it.”
The two candidates are now the most prominent political leaders in the state to suggest McDonnell, a Republican, should consider resigning. Term limits in Virginia prevent McDonnell from running for re-election.
State and federal investigators are looking into McDonnell’s relationship with Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a troubled nutritional supplement company called Star Scientific who provided the governor and his family with almost $150,000 in previously undisclosed gifts, including a Rolex watch, a Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree, and a high-dollar payment to a company owned by McDonnell.
The debate, which was sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association, took place at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.
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