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12th Congressional District Candidates Tiberi, Robinson, Debate

The candidates for Ohio's 12th Congressional District squared off for a debate at COSI Thursday night. Republican incumbent Pat Tiberi faced his Democratic challenger David Robinson in a one-hour exchange that included discussions about the economy, health care and social security.

Representative Pat Tiberi, a Republican, is seeking his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. His challenger is businessman David Robinson, a Democrat. Both men are 46 years old. The 12th district, which includes Dublin, the east side of Columbus, Delaware County and part of Licking County, is traditionally a Republican stronghold. But with President Bush's favorability in serious decline, Republican Tiberi sought during the debate to distance himself from the GOP.

"I have always been an independent thinker," Tiberi said. "Grew up in a Democrat middle class family and when I look at things in Washington D.C. on how to vote I look at it through those eyes. So that's what it's about for me and I'll stake my reputation on it."

But Robinson the Democrat would not let Tiberi off the hook.

"My opponent, although he presents himself as a non-partisan, middle of the road guy, I'm afraid that the truth is he has voted with President Bush 93 percent of the time," Robinson said. "I think that when I am sent to Congress I will be the type of individual who will collaborate, reach across the aisle, work with people; that's what I do every day on my job in business."

Robinson pointed out that during Tiberi's eight years in the House of Representatives the national debt has doubled.

"During the tenure of my opponent, our national debt has gone from roughly $5 trillion to now over $10 trillion. And if in fact I am sent to Congress I will exhibit greater fiscal discipline than the Congress of the last eight years has," Robinson said.

But, Tiberi said, the greatest amount of spending during any two year period started when Democrats won control of the House and Senate.

"The Congress has been dysfunctional in so many ways there's plenty of blame to go around and ironically Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat leadership did a fantastic job in 2006 conveying where things went off track. Unfortunately rather than putting us back on track, things have gotten worse," Tiberi said.

On the subject of reforming health care, Tiberi suggested that small businesses be allowed to band together to form associations. That would give small employers, he said, the health plan buying power that large companies have.

Robinson says he would pursue an increased focus on wellness; heading off preventable diseases like depression and diabetes that absorb a disproportionate amount of health care dollars.

On the subject of social security both candidates agreed: the system is a "sacred bond" between the contributor and the government. But how to fix the looming financial problem was a matter in dispute. First David Robinson.

"We can simply raise retirement age or raise the cap incrementally over the coming years and decades to preserve the system," Robinson said.

That brought this response from Tiberi.

"You know, raising the retirement age might be easy for you growing up in a wealthy community like Arlington, but for me, growing up in a family where my uncles and aunts worked with their hands, some of them in the hot sun all day "

The final question from moderator Mike Thompson: When should U.S. troops be withdrawn from Iraq. First, Pat Tiberi.

"I think it's incredibly important to make sure that the commanders on the ground aren't undercut by politics and we should allow them to do their job," Tiberi said. And I think based on what we've heard from them it'll be early next year."

Q: Mr. Robinson, how long before U.S. combat troops should come back from Iraq?

"The status of forces agreement is being negotiated right now with the Iraqi government and the American government," Robinson said. "That may dictate when troops are withdrawn. But barring that I would imagine within 18 to 24 months."

The 12th Congressional District debate was sponsored by the Columbus Metropolitan Club and WOSU.