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Gubernatorial candidates tackle health care, violence in community forum

RICHMOND, Va. -- With only 40 days until Virginia elects its next Governor, the two major party candidates shared a stage in Richmond. The "Your Community Gubernatorial Forum" was hosted by Radio One at the Virginia War Memorial and broadcast on WTVR.com.

During the hour long discussion, there were few fireworks between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam. The conversation instead focused on how both men plan to tackle some of the biggest issues facing Virginia in areas like health care, violence in public housing, and protecting personal data in the wake of high profile cyber breaches nationwide.

Gillespie took the opportunity to roll out his health care policy plan. The GOP nominee said he will push for more flexibility in how Virginia can spend federal Medicaid dollars.

"We know how to address these needs and use these dollars. One of things I would do is work with the federal government to allow us to innovate in the Commonwealth of Virginia," Gillespie said.

Northam, a pediatric phyician by trade, had strong words for the Graham-Cassidy bill, the latest effort by Congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that failed to move forward.

"If all they want to do in Washington is take Barrack Obama's name off everything and then after that not worry about us, they don't care about you and me," Northam said.

The event was held at the Virginia War Memorial, which sits only a few miles from several public housing communities in Richmond.

In 2017, the city has seen a spike in violent crime. Both men were asked how the state government can help prevent gun violence in public housing communities.

Gillespie

Gillespie said working on pay raises for police to help retain officers and reforming suspension policies in schools can help keep communities safer and help keep children away from violence.

"The other thing we need to do is reinstate what was started here in Richmond in the 90's Project Exile. When someone commits a crime with a gun it needs to be elevated to the federal courts where the penalties are stiffer," Gillespie said.

Northam said his anti-violence policies would include investment in childhood and family development programs. He also said finding ways to rethink public housing could lead to a reduction in gun violence.

"There needs to be more affordable housing. You can do things like look at more mixed income housing, but we need to get people out of these projects," Northam said.

Both men agreed that protecting Virginian's personal data is paramount in the wake of major data breaches, like the situation involving credit report company Equifax.  Northam and Gillespie both said finding ways to attract talented cyber workers to the Virginia would be key to the state's cyber security moving forward.

The candidates shared their views on the Trump adminstration's decision to roll back DACA, whether armed protesters walking Virginia streets to incite violence should be detained, the opioid crisis in Virginia, and how to bring jobs to the Commonwelath.

You can watch the forum in its entirety below.

The deadline to register to vote during November 7 general election is October 16.