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U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and her Republican challenger, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, showed opposition to each other on almost every major issue facing the United States when they squared off Friday night in their first campaign debate.
The two candidates for Ohio's 9th Congressional District seat took turns taking shots at each other on immigration, Social Security, health care, abortion rights, and oil drilling throughout the hour-long event.
Miss Kaptur twice said her opponent called Social Security a joke, which pushed Mr. Wurzelbacher twice to explain his comments.
"I said it was a joke because both Democrats and Republicans have plundered the lock box they put on it," he said.
Mr. Wurzelbacher became visibly irritated when Miss Kaptur for a second time blasted him for the comment, forcing him to explain it a second time. He shot back, claiming Miss Kaptur was blaming only the Republican Party rather than working together.
The hour-long debate was carried live by WTVG-TV, Channel 13, in an event co-sponsored by The Blade.
The two candidates disagreed on every subject save one: They both opposed private operation of the Ohio Turnpike.
Although job creation, President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Social Security were reoccurring themes during the televised event, a question on the environment drew some of the harshest back-and-forth comments.
Mr. Wurzelbacher said oil drilling in the United States waters of Lake Erie should "absolutely" be allowed and said Miss Kaptur has "no fracking idea what we need to do to get energy independence."
"We need to drill for oil, we need to tap into shale oil," he said later in the debate to answer a similar question. "We've got centuries of energy right here in this country and we have got to let the private market work."
Miss Kaptur said she does not support drilling in Lake Erie. "I don't believe in plundering precious resources, because there are generations who will follow us," she said. "I oppose plans to divert it or to pollute it or to threaten it."
Miss Kaptur opened the debate with a statement on some of her main beliefs, and also acknowledged Dr. Richard D. Ruppert, who as the former Medical College of Ohio's third president oversaw a period of tremendous growth at the school. Dr. Ruppert died on Monday.
"I support fair trade and market opening and an opportunity for all people to become everything they can be in our country regardless of where they may have started from," she said in the opening statement. "I am a strong supporter of education and also protecting Social Security and Medicare benefits."
Mr. Wurzelbacher came out swinging and accused Miss Kaptur of doing a "great job talking" during her three decades in Congress.
He also acknowledged being known as "Joe the Plumber" and becoming famous four years ago when he asked Barack Obama, then campaigning to succeed George W. Bush as president, a question. It was later used as a talking point by Republican rival John McCain.
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he did not consider running for the 9th Congressional District two years ago because it would have been a publicity stunt. Since then, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he has talked to people all over the nation.
Miss Kaptur fired back early on in the debate, remarking that Mr. Wurzelbacher does not live in the 9th district and later claiming her challenger plans to move even farther away. Mr. Wurzelbacher called his residency outside the district a "nonissue."
When asked what she had done for residents of the congressional district the past two years, Miss Kaptur said she supported President Obama's automotive-industry rescue and that Jeep and General Motors facilities in Toledo had rehired laid-off workers.
"All you have to do is drive over to General Motors' transmission plant, if you go to the Chrysler Jeep plant, you will see that all former hires have been brought back on, and in fact they are hiring off the street,"she said. "The recovery of the automotive industry has been astounding."
The President’s health-care law was attacked by Mr. Wurzelbacher, who said it amounted to a tax increase on the middle class that Miss Kaptur supported.
He said one of the first things he would do in Congress would repeal Obamacare, calling it "disgustingly irresponsible."
"It is a huge drain," he said. "Miss Kaptur voted to steal $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it and you are talking about 4,000 new regulations coming in over the next eight to 12 years. That is a lot of regulations. The middle class is going to foot that bill."
Miss Kaptur rebutted that the majority of the Republican Party opposed President Obama's 2009 auto bailout, which she said saved the auto industry.
"So I know that Romney and Joe would have let Detroit, Toledo, Defiance, lots of other places, Lorain, Ohio, go bankrupt, and Parma, in terms of the auto industry," she said. "In terms of Medicare, Social Security, and health care, you bet I support protecting and defending Social Security and Medicare as earned benefits. ... In terms of the health bill, I am so happy that small businesses across this state, that families with pre-existing conditions will have the opportunity to select among more affordable plans and that there will be lifetime limits and that all Americans will have an opportunity to access affordable insurance."
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he is against abortion rights.
When asked to comment on comments made by Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who said pregnancies resulting from rape are part of God’s plan, Mr. Wurzelbacher said it was misconstrued.
"Rape is a terrible crime. ... That being said, now, does that child deserve to die for the father's sins? And that is what I think the gentleman was trying to get to," he said. "He wasn't [saying] God is going to visit rape on a woman. That is a disgusting thing to say. ... It's an innocent child and should we destroy that life and the answer is no."
Miss Kaptur said she believes such "decisions of conscience ... belong to each family, they belong to each woman."
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6171.