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Congressional Candidates Spar At Debate

Television campaign ads can get nasty. But when two candidates go head on at a debate the contempt for one another - or their politics - is much more palpable. At a special Columbus on the Record debate Friday night for the 12-th district U-S Congressional seat, candidates engaged in a fiery exchange of words.

In what some political experts have said is not a competitive race, the debate Friday night between the 12th District U.S. Congressional candidates would indicate otherwise.

The debate started out like many recent debates with talk of spending, the deficit, Bush-era tax cuts and health care. But the debate took a turn when the moderator, WOSU's Mike Thompson, asked Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi and his Democratic opponent Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks about misleading campaign ads

"Would you support, both of you, or either of you, stricter rules on what can be sort of misleading ads, misleading attack ads, and a stiffer penalty and a quicker penalty, not three or four months after the election. Would you support something like that, Thompson asked.

Both candidates indicated they would support tougher penalties for deceiving campaign ads but the exchange between the candidates was reminiscent of those ads.

"She's distorted my record the whole time. Mike, I've never voted for my own pay raise, never done it. She continues to say that. It's not true. Not true. Would you support such a legislation? I would. And Congressman, you did vote not to stand in the way of a pay raise. You did. You voted five times to raise your pay. Your ad said I voted five times to raise my own pay, which is a lie. Well, why don't you take it to the ethics commission (it's a lie), the elections commission? Because I'm a public official, it's not going to matter, you can lie about me all you want as you have. No, that's not true. There's a legal remedy if it was a lie. It isn't a lie, Congressman. It is a lie."

The entire debate was not as argumentative as the previous exchange, although the tension between Tiberi and Brooks was palpable. An audience member asked the candidates what Congress can do to bring back certainty to small businesses.

Brooks commented "certainty" is a Republican talking point, and went on to say she's concerned about the little credit available to small business owners.

"Congressman Tiberi votes against the Small Business Lending Act. Senator [George] Voinovich crossed party lines, and you know what he said? He said we have to be Americans again and small businesses need credit. [So what will you do in Congress?] You know what I'd love to see happen? I'd like to see family businesses maintained, said Brooks.

Tiberi countered Brooks' remarks on his "nay" vote for the Small Business Lending bill.

"A small businessman said to me, Thank you for voting against the Small Businesses Lending bill. I had to hire a CPA to see if I qualified for it, and I didn't. And it cost me more money than it would have.' Certainty is absolutely the point I've been hearing this entire campaign, said Tiberi.

When asked about health care legislation, Tiberi said, if given the chance, he would vote to repeal it.

"This bill is going to bankrupt our country. It's going to cause physicians to retire. It's going to cost hospitals great, great problems," said Tiberi.

While Brooks said she would not vote to repeal the entire health care bill, she noted there are some portions that need to be re-visited.

"I really have concerns about the portion of the legislation that dealt with small business. I think it's very confusing," said Brooks.

In other issues, Brooks said she would not support renewing the Bush-era tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year to whom republicans want to extend the cuts. One thing both candidates could agree on is reducing the increasing debt the U.S. owes other countries - how Congress goes about doing that, well, that may not as agreeable.