Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, faced off in their final debate Thursday at the KMBC-TV studios in Kansas City. Fittingly in a closely contested race for a federal seat, some national issues were at the forefront of the discussion.
The debate came hours after more mail bombs intended for Democratic leaders were intercepted before reaching their targets. Hawley condemned the threats, but also blamed Democrats for rising tensions.
“When you see these mobs popping up in the Kavanaugh hearings, the screaming, the driving people out of restaurants, this is terrible,” Hawley said. “This is not the United States of America. This is not civil discourse. I’m disappointed the Democratic Party seems to have embraced this.”
McCaskill responded that Republicans share some of the blame.
“Did you notice he blamed it all on Democrats? That’s the problem,” McCaskill said. “This is a problem on both sides. We gotta turn down the temperature. There are people being ugly on both sides.”
As a migrant caravan is traveling through Mexico on its way to the U.S. border, the candidates also clashed over McCaskill’s record on border security.
“I stand foursquare with the president that he should use any tool at his disposal to make sure our border is never overrun,” McCaskill said. “That is why the border patrol agents have endorsed me in this race. I have voted for more than $70 million in border security money, including more money for the wall.”
Hawley backed the president’s approach to border security, while saying McCaskill hasn’t done enough on the issue.
“This president has stood strong on border security and he needs to continue to do so, but I’m surprised to hear Claire McCaskill talk about the border,” Hawley said.
The debate, which lasted a little over an hour and was pre-taped to air in primetime on Thursday, also featured an audience of about 50 people. The candidates fielded questions from some audience members about gun control, student loan debt and how to keep companies from shipping production and jobs overseas.
Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews.