The first of two debates between Missouri's major party U.S. Senate candidates took place last night in St. Louis.
Democratic incumbent Jean Carnahan and Republican challenger Jim Talent squared off in St. Louis' public television studios to talk about issues including homeland security, social security and prescription drug benefits for seniors.
"We believe we can make a difference in this campaign and in the Senate and there isn't any other reason to run for public office," said Talent in his opening statement. That comment was followed by Carnahan: "Getting the job done in the Senate is what it's all about. Crossing party lines and working for things that matter to the working men and women of this country. That's what it's all about."
Both candidates stated they want to make a difference for Missouri and for the United States.
In the hour-long debate Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan and her Republican challenger Jim Talent answered a series of ten questions as they attempted to differentiate themselves while not alienating the moderate voter.
The issue of the country's struggling economy was the first question and fully a third of the questions related to the economy or jobs. Both candidates offered solutions to put more money into Missourian's pockets.
Carnahan said more has to be done to prevent jobs from going overseas. "I think it's such a shame we have to compete with those who are earning $0.12 an hour, working 12 hours a day abroad," she said. "These are people we can't compete with. They're children in some cases. These are people we can't compete with in this economy. We have to keep good jobs here at home and put our people back to work. We have to restore confidence in the economy and I have been a part of trying to do that with accounting reform and pension reform."
Republican Challenger Jim Talent said Congress needs to cut taxes. "We need to remove the burdens of excessive regulations that hurt them and accomplish nothing. We need to reform the liability system. I think we can compete effectively. We have one group that says we need to pull out of world trading and another that says we need to roll over and die for foreigners. I don't support either one of those. I want an aggressive trading policy; that's what other countries do."
Both candidates have stated they support President Bush's proposed military actions in Iraq.
Both also agreed they hoped the same wouldn't be necessary in dealing with North Korea since diplomatic options hadn't been exhausted there.
The candidates argued over where they stood on social security and individual monthly accounts to supplement the program.
"Right now we're paying, all of us, $160 million in taxes the government doesn't need," said Talent. "It's spending that money. That's why I filed legislation to provide for individual savings accounts. That's why I filed legislation supporting a lockbox."
But Carnahan says that means Talent supports privatizing social security. "Let's don't tamper with the safety net," she said. "Our seniors are counting on it being there. I know my opponent has said I'm scaring seniors. His plan is scaring seniors. When I'm in the Senate I can promise we're not going to privatize social security."
This race is one of just a handful around the country that will determine which party controls the senate where a Democrat holds a one-seat advantage. Carnahan is the incumbent in the race, but she has not ever won election to the seat. She was appointed in 2000 after her husband, Governor Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash just before the election and posthumously won the race.
A second debate will take place this Thursday in Columbia. That debate will include Libertarian candidate Tamara Millay and Green Daniel Romano.