St. Paul, Minn. — Congressman Mark Kennedy says Patty Wetterling should be judged by the company she keeps. Kennedy is running an ad that points out which groups have thrown their support behind her and questions how that will impact her decisions if she's elected to Congress. The ad refers to the group MoveOn.org, among others.
"Patty Wetterling took $80,000 from a group that opposed fighting terrorists after 9/11. She took 50,000 from trial attorneys who are driving doctors who are driving doctors out of business," the ad says.
Kennedy says he's running the ad because he wants to know where Wetterling stands on what he considers the two most important issues of the campaign: the war on terrorism and the economy. The two are running in Minnesota's 6th District, which consists of St. Cloud, the northern Twin Cities suburbs and some eastern suburbs.
Kennedy believes the war in Iraq and aggressive action overseas will prevent additional terrorism in the U.S. He says low taxes will prompt businesses to hire more workers. He says Wetterling is running an issue-free campaign.
"We don't believe we should have an issue-free campaign. Issues are important. The most important issues that voters are telling me and others how do we keep are country safe, win this war on terrorism and how do we grow jobs and grow the economy? Unfortunatel, we haven't heard ... anything from the other side as to how they would do that," according to Kennedy.
While Kennedy is trying to point out that Wetterling is soft on some issues, the National Republican Congressional Committee is questioning Wetterling's credibility altogether.
It's very risky for Mark Kennedy to take on Patty Wetterling frontally here unless he's behind.
"Patty Wetterling wants to go to Congress, but is she ready? Six months ago, she said 'I have no platform.' Three months ago, she said she has no position on the Bush tax cuts. Two months ago, Wetterling finally just said she has a lot to learn,'" the ad says.
Wetterling is known statewide through her child advocacy work. Her son, Jacob, was abducted in 1989 and hasn't been found.
Wetterling began the campaign with some gaps in her political agenda. When she first announced her run in April, Wetterling said she has a lot to learn during campaign stops. She has also said she's taking the prudent approach by listening to all sides before making a decision on an issue. In response to Kennedy's ads linking her to the positions of MoveOn.org and trial lawyers, Wetterling says candidates that take money from groups don't always support every policy position.
"I worked with law enforcement and have been very good at hard on crime and I would have that same fierceness when it came to terrorists. So I guess here's what I'm asking is that you've known me for 15 years. You've known Mark Kennedy for four. Don't let him define me," she said.
Wetterling says the best way to fight the war on terror is to increase local fire and police protection. In terms of taxes, Wetterling favors rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans.
Wetterling has responded to the Kennedy ads with spots of her own. In an ad released this week, Wetterling uses John Walsh from the TV show, "America's Most Wanted" to speak on her behalf.
"I'm a Republican and I'm outraged at the false attacks on my friend Patty Wetterling. I never met anyone more qualified or better prepared to sever in Congress. Patty Wetterling's integrity and commitment are truly inspiring. Her opponent and his allies are desperate to defeat her in anyway they can," Walsh says in the ad.
Kennedy maintains that his ads are true and that Wetterling has been critical of him as well. It's expected that the flurry of ad activity will increase throughout election day. The National Journal reports that the Democratic National Congressional Committee will spend $500,000 on behalf of Wetterling.
St. John's political science professor Robert Weber says he believes internal polling must show a close race if Kennedy and his party are running ads criticizing Wetterling at this point in the campaign.
"I would guess it's very close based on the strategy itself. It's very risky for Mark Kennedy to take on Patty Wetterling frontally here unless he's behind," according to Weber.
Voters will have the chance to see how the two candidates fare in a live head to head debate on KSTP-TV on Sunday night.