Republican Senate nominee and former Gov. Tommy Thompson and Democratic Senate nominee and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., clashed over key issues Friday night in the first of three debates.
During the debate, hosted by Milwaukee Public Television and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Thompson and Baldwin, both running for retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl’s seat, agreed on a few issues, such as withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and stopping the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
However, they disagreed over what taxes should be put in place, whether the Affordable Care Act should be repealed, whether the issue of gay marriage should be left up to the states or federal government and on reforming Medicare and Social Security.
Baldwin touted her record in Congress, claiming she spent her time in Washington fighting for middle-class families while standing against special interests. She said Thompson cut a “sweetheart deal” with drug companies banning negotiation for lower rates when he served as secretary of health and human services under President George W. Bush.
“I have taken on powerful interests on behalf of ordinary citizens,” Baldwin said. “My opponent has taken on powerful special interests as clients.”
Thompson said while he served as governor of the state, he cut taxes 91 times and created more than 700,000 jobs. He said he is a reformer, while Baldwin was ranked the number one liberal and number one spender in Congress.
“What she’s talking about is always trying to find a way to tax somebody else and divide up the classes in America,” Thompson said. “I’m a builder. I built Wisconsin.”
University of Wisconsin College Republicans Chairman Jeff Snow said Thompson won the debate because he presented clear and concise reasons to vote for him. He said Thompson will work in the Senate to reduce the $16 trillion debt.
Snow said Thompson would use his expertise in job creation he gained as governor to create millions of jobs throughout the country, which would help improve the market for college students entering the work force.
While recent polls have shown Baldwin tied or leading Thompson, Snow attributed the jump in the polls for Baldwin to Thompson having a tough primary with three other contenders for the Republican Senate nomination.
Snow also said Baldwin has been an extremely effective fundraiser and Thompson “was just getting back in the game.”
UW College Democrats Chair Chris Hoffman said Tammy Baldwin came across the debate as the candidate more focused on students, especially by highlighting her support of and work on the Affordable Health Care Act. He said Baldwin has worked with students since she served on the Dane County Board of Supervisors.
Hoffman said Baldwin would work with President Barack Obama in providing more Federal Pell Grants for students as well as keeping tuition costs lower.
Hoffman said in the next few weeks, Baldwin will need to continue to focus on areas outside of Dane County to build support and visit with people throughout the state. He said students can help by volunteering for Baldwin in phone banks and informing voters.
The second debate will be held Oct. 18 in Wausau, with the third coming Oct. 26 in Milwaukee.