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Eagan, Minn. — The first half of the debate focused on a wide range of issues but the second half centered on charges of unfair politics.
DFL challenger Teresa Daly says Congressman John Kline has been running a campaign that focuses more on her credibility than the issues important to voters. She says Kline has sent out several pieces of literature questioning votes she missed on the Burnsville City Council and said she was seeking higher office to get a pay increase.
"What the congressman is doing is chipping away at my personal character, which is not what I believe the people in this district deserve in a campaign," she said.
Daly says she missed City Council votes because of other business commitments. Kline says it's fair for him to question Daly since his voting record and attendance has been questioned during his first term in Congress. He says the voters have the right to know Daly's attendance issues.
"I think the material that we have put out has been very factual for one thing. It raises the question of how has she been performing as a city councilwoman," Kline said.
Kline says he's also unhappy that the Daly campaign has accused him of ducking debates even though there are several scheduled over the next month.
In terms of the issues, Kline and Daly disagree on how to fix Social Security, the best way to handle the war in Iraq and how best to invigorate the economy. During the debate, which was hosted by Burnsville-Eagan Community Television, Kline says he would like to see the United States stay the course in Iraq. He says pulling the troops out now would be a mistake.
"Success in Iraq is absolutely critical to not only our own security here but to any hope of peace and prosperity in the region," he said.
Daly agrees that the troops should continue to serve in Iraq. But she says there should be a greater international presence in the country. Daly also says it was a mistake to put more emphasis on Iraq than on tracking down Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.
"We need members of Congress who will hold our leadership, our administration regardless of party, accountable for a plan to finish the job in Iraq and a plan to continue to fight and put our resources toward the larger war and to the larger questions of where is Osama Bin Laden?" Daly said.
On Social Security, Daly says she does not support a plan that would allow younger workers to place a portion of their taxes in the stock market. Kline says he's open to the idea since the system is currently expected to start paying out more in benefits than it takes in from payroll taxes in 2018.
In terms of the economy, Kline says the last several rounds of tax cuts have helped keep the economy strong. He says he would not reverse any tax cuts to pay for other programs or reduce the deficit.
"We need to keep the tax policies in place that we have that are encouraging job growth. We need to do something about litigation where we have lawsuits that are making us noncompetitive. Federal policy is important for the economy and I feel very proud of the things that we have done to bring this economy out of a recession and into robust growth," he said.
Teresa Daly says the current economy is not robust. She wants to roll back tax relief for families that make over $200,000 a year and shift those tax breaks to middle-class families. Daly also says businesses that continue to hire U.S. workers should receive incentives while companies that move work overseas should be penalized.
"Our families are struggling. Their income is going down while their costs are going up. We need policies that put people back to work," Daly said.
The two candidates are scheduled to meet in six more debates between now and election day.