LIMA - Under camera lights, U.S. Rep. Mike Oxley and challenger Ben Konop squared off in person during a live television debate last night, each making a final plea to voters before Tuesday's election.
Last week, Mr. Oxley (R., Findlay) and Mr. Konop (D., Ada) had a dress rehearsal in front of an audience in Urbana.
But this time, with just six days remaining before residents head to the polls, the candidates tried to show a polished image that would stick with voters as they cast ballots.
While the stakes may have increased as the election nears, the rhetoric was much the same as the candidates continued to hash out typical hot-button issues during the debate at Lima Central Catholic High School such as the economy, the war on terrorism, health care, and Social Security.
The 11-term congressman and chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee reminded voters during the hour-long debate that he has a record and the experience that warrant another term representing Ohio's 4th Congressional District - something he said his opponents lacks.
"You ought to be running for city council in Toledo," Mr. Oxley said as he criticized his opponent's lack of service and youth.
Mr. Konop, an attorney, fired back saying that Mr. Oxley has not worked for the people of the district, but big business and banks. He repeated the charge that the congressman moved to Virginia in 1986, abandoning the district, and that new leadership would bring fresh ideas for the people of the district.
In perhaps his most stinging remark of the debate, Mr. Konop said the congressman should not take credit for one of his largest achievements, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which put new regulations on businesses.
"He didn't write the Sarbanes-Oxley bill," Mr. Konop said in the final minutes of the debate.
"A representative from New York wrote it. He just got his name on it," the challenger told the audience.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Oxley said his opponent has used attacks to make voters look beyond the true issues of the campaign.
Quoting Confucius, Mr. Oxley said, "He who throws mud loses ground."
He added, "It is important we concentrate on the issues here."
He also said Mr. Konop is supported by "left-wing" organizations and Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). "There is a difference in philosophy between us," he said.
Mr. Konop, who moved to the 4th District to run for Congress, said his candidacy is focused on helping people realize their dreams.
While remarking that Mr. Oxley is not doing enough to protect the interests of the district, Mr. Konop said he is in touch with the problems people are facing.
"We need to make sure every American can live the American Dream," he said.
The debate aired live on WLIO-TV and WOHL-TV and WIMA-AM in Lima. It was moderated by Kendall Baker, the president of Ohio Northern University.
While members of the audience were silent during the debate, afterward many remarked that the showdown provided a constructive discussion of the issues.
Diane Dickson of Lima, a supporter of Mr. Konop, said her candidate made a strong case.
"He held his own," she said. "He was very aware of the issues. That's what Mike Oxley lacks."
Wayne York of Auglaize County said Mr. Oxley has the footing to make progress in Congress, unlike his opponent.
"With Congressman Oxley's seniority, he can do more for his district than an incoming greenhorn," Mr. York said.
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