Taking advantage of the opportunity to publicly face his opponent, Republican Richard Hudson went on the offensive during Monday’s 8th District debate with U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell.
But the Democratic incumbent appeared content to allow his Republican challenger to punch himself out.
The AARP-organized debate was designed to allow the candidates to speak about issues of importance to seniors. About 200 people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by Wingate University. Much of the debate was dominated by talk of Medicare and Social Security.
Taking questions from a panel and the audience at the university’s Batte Center, the debate saw Hudson trying to distinguish himself from self-described moderate Kissell, despite often finding himself in agreement with the congressman.
Throughout the debate Kissell repeatedly stated that he would not “break the promise” to seniors and to those entering the workforce by allowing for a Medicare voucher program or by supporting the Affordable Care Act.
Calling it “dishonest” to pledge continued support for Medicare without proposing a fix, Hudson outlined a program that would allow for consumer choice and that would permit insurance companies to compete across lines, thereby driving down costs.
“To keep driving toward that cliff (without a plan to save Medicare) is irresponsible,” Hudson said of Kissell’s mantra-like pledge of fidelity to Medicare and Social Security.
Kissell rarely chose to engage his opponent directly, taking the time only to correct matters related to his voting record.
In one such attack, Hudson said Kissell “believes that the government provides the heath care.” Hudson also claimed that Kissell has voted in support of “bureaucratic panels” designed to determine the necessity of certain medical procedures as a Medicare cost saving measure.
Kissell responded by pointing out that he was one of the original sponsors of anti-Independent Panel Advisory Board legislation.
Kissell also failed to use all of the time he was allotted to respond to questions or Hudson’s criticism. For example, when he was asked if he supported a government voucher program for seniors on Medicare, Kissell answered with a curt “no.”
Questioned about what he would do if re-elected, Kissell repeated a line that has become a theme of his campaign, saying that he will continue to seek ideas from the people of his district.
“The people of this district have the best ideas,” Kissell said.
While praising Kissell’s constituent relations, Hudson said that he would go even further to make himself available to the people of the 8th district.
Hudson said that he would facilitate constituent outreach by creating open office hours and hosting town hall meetings.
Both were critical of what Hudson called the “poisonous” partisan divide in Washington, saying that they would make special efforts to reach across the isle while in office.
“I am a moderate, and I believe that’s where the answers are,” Kissell said, criticizing Republicans and Democrats for retreating to the “safety” of the extreme wings of their parties.
Another debate is planned for Oct. 3 in Lumberton.