Michael Bennet, Ken Buck spar in 9NEWS debate

2:14 PM, Oct 12, 2010   |    comments
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Sherry Kostelecky began the evening by asking about how each candidate was going to create jobs, and she wanted specifics, saying "please meat and potatoes answers."

District Attorney Ken Buck (R-Weld County) said he was in favor of targeted small business loans because he says he believes it would help the most Coloradans.

"We need to make sure we give targeted loans to small business. We need to make sure that small business knows that we are not going to pass an irresponsible carbon tax credit at the most vital time," Buck said. "If we can give small business people certainty, I believe we will create jobs, because it's small business that creates jobs, not government."

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) discussed the importance of new energy jobs.

"What I think we should do is commit ourselves to breaking our dependence on foreign oil, especially from the Persian Gulf, where we send, again, billions of dollars a week of our money," Bennet said in his response. "What we ought to be doing is spending those billions of dollars here in the United States developing new energy jobs that can't be exported overseas."

Bennet also says small business needs access to credit so they can borrow money.

The debate, hosted by 9NEWS and The Denver Post, was broadcast live on My20 and on 9NEWS.com. It was at the King Center on the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver.

The campaign between the two has garnered the national spotlight and been very contentious, with a large amount of negative ads run on both sides. One of the questions asked by debate panelist and 9NEWS Reporter Adam Schrager asked both candidates what one thing had most offended them from the commercials.

"Wow, just one thing?" Buck said. "I think the thing that offends me the most, frankly, is the Social Security issue."

Buck says he has a responsible Social Security reform package on the table and "I have to talk to those seniors about how sincere I am that their Social Security is absolutely protected. I am trying to make Social Security sustainable for younger people and putting ideas on the table," Buck said.

"What's most offensive to me about it is that there has been millions and millions of dollars poured into Colorado trying to steal this election from Colorado's voters and that's just wrong. These groups that won't say who they are or how they're funded," Bennet said. "These ads that made up stories about what I did at the Denver Public Schools when we led one of the most important reforms going on in this country and continues today. I don't in the work in the Denver Public Schools - the good work done by principals and teachers there should be dragged into this political election."

Some of the most contentious comments of the evening came at the end of a lightning round of questions about health care reform. During the quick series of questions, Buck and Bennet said they both supported making sure people had care across state lines, coverage of pre-existing conditions, offering preventive services, and tort reform for malpractice. At the end of the series of questions, Buck said he did not believe the health care reform's mandate that it was required was constitutional and he said he did not support funding for embryonic stem cell research.

"Until the very end, Ken Buck was almost for the health care reform bill," Bennet said.

"But how would we know what's in those 2,400 pages with those 10 tax increases?" Buck replied.

The candidates were then asked what should be next for health care.

"We have to continue to work very hard to continue to reduce health care costs in this country. The rate of rise of health care is bankrupting our families. This is the only country in the world, by the way, where you go bankrupt because of the health care system," Bennet said.

"I think we need to repeal the health care bill," Buck said. "We need to make sure we repeal the 1099 provisions in that health care bill."

"In the replacement health care bill, ideas that give individuals the same sort of tax incentives that employers have for health care. We need to set up health savings accounts so individuals can set money aside," Buck said.

Several of the questions during the evening revolved around the economy. Adam asked what each candidate has personally done to tighten their budgets during the economic downturn.

"My wife and I haven't taken a vacation in a while. I don't know if it's because of campaigning or if it's because of the tough economic times. But we certainly have sat down in our home. Not only do we have tough economic times - fortunately my salary has been consistent based on my job, but we have children in college and we have other challenges. Yeah, my wife and I have put more money aside for retirement based on not really knowing what's going to happen in our future," Buck replied.

"I pushed to freeze congressional salaries until we are out of this recession, and we froze congressional salaries until we are out of this recession, including mine," Bennet said. "I paid back the subsidy that I get from the federal government for my health care because I think it's just wrong for politicians in Washington to treat health care as a political football when there are people being thrown off their health care every single day."

A Marine and veteran of the Iraq War, Matt Koren, asked both candidates what they thought the U.S.' future in Afghanistan should be.

"We should do whatever we can in the coming months to support the Pakistani military as they try to stamp out the remnants of al-Qaida in the Afghan-Pakistan border and that we are there on the border to make sure that the Pakistan military can secure the nuclear weapons in Pakistan," Bennet said. "I think that we ought to begin bringing people home in July '11 because this is the longest shooting war that we've had in our country's history and, among other things, we simply cannot afford it anymore."

"I would not support any nation building in Afghanistan and I don't think we can bring peace to that region, and so I would rather bring our young men and women home," Bennet said.

"I disagree with Sen. Bennet on the timetable. I don't think signal our opponents when we're going to bring folks home. I think we set up very realistic goals and I think we try to achieve those goals," Buck said. "The first goal is that we leave Afghanistan not as a safe haven for terrorists."

"We leave a minimal military force there to deal with the tribes and make sure that the Taliban doesn't continue to grow and take over the country," Buck said.

Two young students, Karl and Kristen Pierson, asked the candidates what they realistically hoped to accomplish.

"My priority is, and I think it's realistic. It isn't realistic on the first day, it's not realistic in the first month or year, but what I think is realistic is to enact a constitutional balanced budget amendment in this country," Buck said. "It is a worthy goal and it will make sure that your generation isn't paying back the debt that is being created by this congress."

"To me this job, just like my last job, is all about trying to make a contribution to making sure we're not the first generation of Americans to leave less opportunity, not more, to our kids and to our grandkids," Bennet said.

He then talked about how he wants to create a growing economy, making sure children have a good education and get the country free of a dependence on foreign oil.

Near the end of the evening, the candidates were asked how they would respond to a cynic who feels politicians have let her down.

"Every morning I wake up and do the right thing. I'm going to take that 'do the right thing' attitude to Washington, D.C. It's not my party that decides what's right. I will not take an oath to the Republican Party. I will not take an oath to the lobbyists. I will take an oath to the Constitution of the United States," Buck said.

"I hope to bring a perspective of somebody who's been on the receiving end of people's well-intentioned, but wrong-headed ideas in Washington, which is a perspective that is in extremely short supply there," Bennet said.

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