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St. Cloud, Minn. — The race for Minnesota's 6th District was a rather sleepy one through the summer. Now, as Election Day nears, the candidates are quick to trade punches.
In their latest debate, Congressman Mark Kennedy questioned the values of the groups that have given money to Patty Wetterling's campaign.
"Whether you're talking MoveOn.org, that didn't think we should have gone to Afghanistan after 9/11, whether you're talking Emily's List, that believes we ought to have abortion on demand, whether you're talking the Brady anti-Second Amendment group or on down through the list -- Planned Parenthood, NARAL and others -- those are people that do not represent my values," Kennedy said.
Wetterling countered that most of her funding comes from individuals. And she insisted just because she's received money through MoveOn.org, she doesn't endorse all of the group's views.
"I find it offensive to be accused of things that I do not believe in. You've known me for 15 years. I ask that you listen to me directly if you have a question or a concern. It's accusatory and not fruitful where we raise our dollars. The reality is it takes a lot of money to run for Congress and I'm happy that I've had broad base of grassroots support," Wetterling said.
Recent figures show Wetterling has raised nearly $1.3 million for her campaign over five months. The Kennedy campaign says it's raised $2 million.
Patty Wetterling became a nationally known child advocate 15 years ago when her son Jacob was abducted. Throughout her campaign, she's cited this work as the best reason to send her to Washington.
During the debate, Wetterling made several mentions of her son's abduction. It even came up in response to a question about homeland security.
"When Jacob was kidnapped it was like we were under a terrorist attack. Who is the enemy? When will they strike again? What makes our other children safe? We worked very hard to give law enforcement tools. I asked what they needed, they said sex offender registration. They said a central repository of information, we fought very hard for that. We passed state and federal law on sex offender registration," Wetterling said.
For his part, Kennedy pointed to 2,500 votes in Congress as experience.
Kennedy jumped on the issue of terrorism several times during the debate, saying it's one of the biggest issues in this campaign, and that it's not enough to rely on just homeland security.
"With everything we have done to make sure we have taken care of homeland security, we cannot make ourselves safe here at home without compromising the liberties that we've enjoyed, unless we're fighting that war on terrorism overseas so that we're not fighting it over here," Kennedy said.
The two candidates also sparred over Social Security. Wetterling said the government needs to protect the trust fund for Social Security. She doesn't think the system should be privatized, but admits that Social Security may only be a part of what seniors rely on in the future. Kennedy shot back saying that the system is secure and Wetterling was scaring seniors.
The two candidates actually agreed on one topic during the debate. Both Kennedy and Wetterling said the education reform law, No Child Left Behind, is a flawed system and should be fixed.
This was the second head-to-head debate for the candidates.