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Indiana Election 2011 | Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations

Senate Candidates Trade Barbs in First Debate

The three candidates for U.S. Senate went head to head Monday in the first of three debates before the November 2 election.

Senate candidates

  • Dan Coats

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    Photo: Courtesy Photo

    Dan Coats

  • Brad Ellsworth

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    Photo: Courtesy United States Congress

    Brad Ellsworth

  • Rebecca Sink-Burris

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    Photo: courtesy www.electrebecca.com

    Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Rebecca Sink-Burris

The three candidates for U.S. Senate went head to head Monday in the first of three debates before the November 2 election.

All three candidates say the debate gave them more room to talk to the issues, but not as much as they’d like.  Answering questions from the public that were sent to the Indiana Debate Commission, which hosted the event, Republican Dan Coats, Democrat Brad Ellsworth and Libertarian Rebecca Sink-Burris tackled issues ranging from the economy and health care to social security and abortion.  Mike Littell of Noblesville said this is the first debate he’s attended in person.  He says he wanted to hear more about the candidates’ positions on health care, but walked away not entirely sure who to support.

“I don’t know if I’ve made up my mind yet or not but I’m a juvenile diabetic so I know how important this is,” he said.  “They should have done this back in the 80s or something like that.  But it’s a start.  I know it’s not the best thing in the world, but it’s a start and they need to start on it.”

While all the candidates took on the issues, none wasted a chance to go after what they perceived as their opponents weaknesses.  For Dan Coats, that meant repeated references to Congressman Brad Ellsworth’s fellow Democrats President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as well as strong opposition to economic bills Ellsworth voted yes on.

“Unemployment is higher than it’s been since the Great Depression,” Coats said.  “And we have a government, an Obama-Pelosi agenda, that yes my opponent did support 90 percent of the time, that has supported this massive spending and plunge into debt, that is putting our country in a second tier status, and is putting our children at risk, and our grandchildren, to not have the kind of opportunities that we have had.”

But Ellsworth was the first to fire, forcing Coats to use time to talk about his plans on the economy to respond to accusations about his record as a lobbyist in Washington.  And from his podium, Ellsworth consistently returned to Coats resume…

“He served his 18 years in Congress, went to a lobbying firm, was assigned to Germany as ambassador, and then went to another lobbying firm,” Ellsworth said.  “He hasn’t paid taxes in Indiana in hears, has not voted in Indiana in 10 years.  Dan, I would like to remind you what you said when you debated Joe Hogsett.  You said then you should move back home with the people you represent.  You never did.”

And Libertarian Rebecca Sink-Burris said the back and forth between those two major party candidates, as displayed in this debate, were prime examples of why voting for them was a mistake.

“You can’t count on the old parties to change.  It just isn’t going to happen.  And if you keep voting for them, they will continue to ignore you.  But if you vote for a Libertarian, they know that you want a change and that you want small, constitutionally-limited government.”

This first of three debates was held on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis.  The second debate takes place October 22 in Fort Wayne, followed by the final debate on October 25 in Vincennes.

Click here for full video of the debate.