HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Congresswoman Elaine Luria and her opponent, Scott Taylor, squared off in a fiery debate on Tuesday night at the News 3 studios.
Luria, a Democrat, is seeking re-election against Taylor, who represented the district as a Republican before Luria defeated him in 2018.
Taylor lobbed the first attack of the night during the opening statements. "This evening and this race is about contrast," said Taylor. "The choice is clear. My opponent supports Nancy Pelosi 90% of the time."
Luria used her opening statement to stick to her background and accomplishments during her term. "I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve Virginia's second district," she said.
The topic of gun control led to a sharp exchange midway through the debate. They both were asked whether any legislation could've helped prevent the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. Luria said a ban on suppressors could be something "reasonable" to consider. Taylor said none of the proposals would've prevented the shooting.
During the exchange, Luria invoked one of the heroes of the shooting - Ryan Keith Cox. "He lost his own life because people like Mr. Taylor are not willing to do anything about this epidemic of gun violence," said Luria.
"She just went in and said I'm responsible for some crazy guy that went and shot people. That is insane. That is absolutely insane," Taylor responded.
Luria also launched an attack on Taylor's 2017 vote on the tax law. "It raised taxes on Gold Star families - families who lost a loved one in combat. It raised taxes by 37%. He voted for that and he celebrated voting for this tax bill," said Luria.
Taylor responded strongly. "Shame on you for invoking Gold Star families. Unlike you, I know tons of Gold Star families. I've buried some of my best friends over the years," he said.
Taylor also faced questioning on his leadership after his staff forged signatures to get a third party candidate on the ballot in 2018. Taylor has denied any personal wrongdoing. "I've taken responsibility for my team and the reality is we've moved forward," he said.
Luria read a newspaper article saying Taylor's whole campaign is under investigation. While the issue continues to be featured in ads, it did not come up again during the debate.
In the end, the candidates tried to make closing arguments on why voters should pick them. "It is a myth my opponent is a moderate. Sure, my opponent supports the military and veterans. That's easy, but there is a demonstrable difference in our votes," said Taylor.
Luria agreed there are many differences. "There is a clear contrast between us. What I have done in Congress is I've worked to protect your healthcare," she said.
The two will debate again later this week as voters continue to make their voices heard before Election Day.
Before the debate, both candidates spoke to News 3 about where they stand on some of the most important issues.
"I think it's a great opportunity when we have a chance to stand side by side and talk about our views on the issues that really lets voters make an informed choice about which candidate they want to support, and I really look forward to talking about the work that we've done and that our team has done for the district - things like rolling back excessive taxes on Gold Star families, getting a pay raise for disabled veterans, additional funding for the Chesapeake Bay, and we have a very long record of accomplishments during this term," Luria said.
"Look, I'm supportive of law enforcement because I know without law and order, you don't have justice; you don't have equality. There's a demonstrative difference in how we stand on economic issues how to get folks back to work safely how to get our kids safely. There's certainly diverging on Second Amendment and First Amendment, and I just look forward to highlighting those," said Taylor.
After the debate, News 3's "Think Tank" political analysts, Dr. Eric Claville and Jesse Richman, as well as moderator and Scripps national politics contributor Joe St. George broke down the debate for a debriefing.
If you missed either stream live, you can watch both above.