Duffy, Kreitlow spar over taxes, economy in debateU.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow jabbed hard at each other early and often Thursday night during a one-hour debate at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
The lumberjack jocularity lasted about 30 seconds.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow jabbed hard at each other early and often Thursday night during a one-hour debate at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. It was the second and final debate before Election Day in the race to represent Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.
The more than 100 people in the audience at the Yellowjacket Student Union have all seen their share of the candidates in television ads that have aired nonstop in the district. In a year with record spending on congressional races, spending in the Duffy-Kreitlow contest is expected to reach $7 million.
The candidates’ ads have shown them going back and forth using lumberjack metaphors, and Wisconsin Public Radio’s Mike Simonson made mention of his own plaid shirt before he asked the first of 11 questions from a three-person panel that included WPR’s Danielle Kaeding and Shelley Nelson from the Superior Telegram.
The debate was aired on public radio across the district.
Duffy, a Republican, and Kreitlow, a Democrat, kept their rhetoric close to party lines and focused on mostly national issues.
Both of them hit hard on each other’s record in public office. Duffy was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave to replace the retiring Democrat Rep. Dave Obey. Kreitlow is a one-term state senator and former television news anchor.
Sighs swept across a mostly quiet audience as Duffy time and again brought up the point that Kreitlow served in Madison at a time when taxes were raised on Wisconsin residents.
Kreitlow said Duffy has been part of the problem in a Congress that is deadlocked in partisan politics.
When asked whether the federal stimulus was effective in boosting the economy during the recession, Duffy said it came when the economy was already in recovery, calling it just another case of “government borrowing and spending that doesn’t grow the economy.”
Duffy said taxes simply have to be lowered across the board and not in a way that “picks winners and losers.”
Kreitlow said the stimulus “saved the economy” and too many representatives in Washington, including Duffy, were callous during the economic downturn, saying, “Let the market take care of it.”
One the few agreements found during the debate revolved around an issue in the presidential campaign spurred by Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has been dogged with questions about comments he made early on in his campaign saying states should be handed the job of dealing with federal disasters rather than the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Both candidates said the FEMA presence in the Twin Ports after the June flooding shows that local and federal groups can work together effectively.
Simonson had to ask Duffy twice to answer a question about signing pledges for special interest groups, hinting at the Grover Norquist “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” that holds representatives to a “no new taxes” stance.
Duffy continued his assault on tax rates during Kreitlow’s term and listed the groups who have backed his candidacy.
“Let me answer for him,” Kreitlow said: Duffy did sign the Norquist pledge.
He said that unless Duffy presented the pledge to audience members and tore it up in front of them, “he cannot be trusted to make responsible decisions.”
Duffy said Kreitlow wasn’t being credible.
“You taxed more, you spent more,” he said.
The rest of the debate found the candidates falling along well-established national party lines on defense spending, national health care and how to spark the economy.
The final question dealt with iron ore mining and the controversial Gogebic Taconite project in Ashland County that was abandoned over questions about environmental safeguards. It was the lone question about a district-specific issue asked during the debate.
Duffy said if it can be assured that the mining is safe, “let’s build the darn mine.”
Kreitlow said the project got off on a bad foot when the company was allowed to write the regulations that would govern the project. He asked what people would think if the regulations were written solely by the Sierra Club.
“We’ve always had that balance,” he said of projects considering the economy and the environment.