DOVER, Del. (AP) - Candidates for the U.S. House and Senate traded jabs Wednesday on issues ranging from health care reform to government regulation and partisan gridlock at a forum at Delaware State University.
As expected, the forum featured sharp exchanges between Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and Independent challenger Alex Pires, whose personal attacks against Carper have been decried by both Democrats and Republicans.
Pires' opening statement praising black institutions such as DSU deviated from his traditional practice of opening forums and debates by attacking Carper. He had on past occasions called the former two-term governor and longtime congressman unfit and a corrupt career politician.
"This is the first time that Mr. Pires has not attacked me repeatedly. Maybe we should have more debates here," Carper quipped, prompting Pires to respond, "I'm not done yet."
True to form, Pires, a wealthy lawyer and businessman later called Carper a "professional parasite" and lit into him after Carper acknowledged that he did not read the legislative language in the Affordable Care Act health care reform bill, but that he and other senators work off "plain-English" summaries.
"You've never read it, Tom, why don't you just say that? Just like you were never in Vietnam," said Pires, who has accused Carper, who flew Navy anti-submarine patrols in Southeast Asia during the war, of falsely implying that he served in Vietnam. "I don't like these half-truths. Stand up and be honest about your answers."
In an angry retort, Carper questioned whether Pires also would tell families of other Navy patrol aviators who were taken prisoner or killed after being shot down that they were not Vietnam veterans.
"I'm a Vietnam veteran," Carper said, his face flush with anger. "... It's time Vietnam veterans got a little respect from this country."
Aside from the back-and-forth between Carper and Pires, much of the forum centered on the candidates' views on the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, and whether they would vote to repeal all or part of it.
"It was too much, too soon," said Kevin Wade, Carper's Republican challenger. "It's just one of those Washington programs that went through without any thought."
Democratic Rep. John Carney Jr. touted his record of bipartisanship and said he would continue working with lawmakers from both parties on issues such as health care and deficit reduction if elected to a second term. Republican challenger Tom Kovach said the first step in creating a bipartisan atmosphere in Washington is for a lawmaker being willing to stand up to his or her own party. That's something he has suggested Carney is unwilling to do.
Democratic Gov. Jack Markell and Republican challenger Jeff Cragg skipped the forum, leaving the stage to Libertarian Jesse McVay and Green Party candidate Mark Perri.
"Nobody's talking about climate change," Perri complained. "We need to stop burning fossil fuels."
McVay urged voters to remember Libertarian candidates when they vote on Nov. 6, saying the party believes in fiscal responsibility and social tolerance.
"We want the state out of your pocket and out of your bedroom," he said, adding that Libertarians embrace both "gay rights and gun rights."
Benjamin Mobley and Sher Valenzuela, the Republican candidates for insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor, had to watch the forum from seats in the audience after the Democratic incumbents, commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, declined invitations from the League of Women Voters.
Saturday, May 18 2013 10:19 AM EDT2013-05-18 14:19:20 GMT
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