Buck, Bennet duke it out

Senate hopefuls spar over Iran, tax cuts, spending

The two candidates for the U.S. Senate from Colorado sparred sometimes good-naturedly, sometimes with knuckles bared Saturday during their Club 20 debate.

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat appointed last year to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter, and the Republican nominee, Ken Buck, agreed on the need to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but they battled about domestic policy.

“We absolutely, positively cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weapons,” Buck said. To prevent that, the United States will have to act alone or support Israel.

“I would not take any action off the table,” Bennet said, “including a military option to stop Iran” from obtaining nuclear weapons.

That chord of agreement, however, was an isolated one.

Buck said Bennet is a spender in Washington, D.C., during the week, “and he preaches financial conservatism on Sunday” in Colorado.

Buck, Bennet shot back, “doesn’t have to leave the state to say one thing in one place and something else in another. That’s what politicians do.” Bennet, the former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, painted himself as an outsider who spent his entire career outside politics until he was appointed to the Senate.

Questioned about the Bush tax cuts, Bennet said his main interest is in “extending middle-class tax cuts” as he noted the middle class shrunk during the last period of economic growth. “Cutting taxes for the wealthiest people and borrowing from the Chinese and sticking our kids with the bill is not what I would call financial responsibility.”

Bennet chastised Buck for his support of an economic plan put forward by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that Bennet said would lead to higher taxes and fail to resolve the nation’s economic woes.

“The problem is it’s just not going to work,” Bennet said.

Buck, the Weld County district attorney, asked Bennet to withdraw a campaign advertisement that was criticized by the Denver television stations and newspapers as misleading. Bennet refused to do withdraw it.

“I stand by the ad,” Bennet said, prompting Buck to note that everyone else must be wrong.

“They’re mistaken,” Bennet said.

“So everybody’s mistaken but you?” Buck responded.

Buck also questioned Bennet about his vote for a budget measure containing an earmark for $1.5 million for an airport named for U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.

“That was certainly not of interest to me,” Bennet said.

But it illustrates why he has advanced the cause of earmark reform and transparency, Bennet said.

“I won’t use your misstatement in a campaign commercial,” Buck said.

Then, Bennet retorted, “Will you promise that (former Bush campaign adviser) Karl Rove and all those guys won’t use it in a commercial?”


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