SALEM, Ore. – The two candidates in one of the hottest congressional districts in the country mixed it up Friday in a debate that focused on jobs and the economy.
Republican Scott Bruun, a three-term state lawmaker, is challenging first-term congressional Democrat Kurt Schrader in the 5th Congressional District.
Bruun took to attacking Congress in the spring in television ads, especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. During the debate at the Salem City Club, Bruun tied Schrader to her.
“Congressman, you’ve been a willing soldier in Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco-based army that is part of the out-of-control spending,” he said.
The national Republican Party believes Bruun can unseat Schrader and is dumping money into the race. A win for Bruun could help swing control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans.
“My opponent has clearly stated he’s on the side of the wealthy,” Schrader said. “I voted against the big bank bailout. I voted for Wall Street regulation - real, serious regulation.”
Bruun chastised the Democrats for running up the national debt.
“They have not offered a final budget, which was due in April, and they’re not going to offer that until after the election in November,” Bruun said. “Why? Because they don’t want us to see the red ink. Why not? Because the reality is staggering.”
“Yeah, we spent a little money up front in the recovery package,” said Schrader. “But Mark Zandi, John McCain’s economist, Benjamin Bernanke, the USA Today, all says that recovery package has helped turn this country around and kept us out of the Great Depression.”
Schrader slammed Bruun for an earlier comment he made on Social Security.
“My opponent still believes in the same old direction that George Bush had before which is to privatize Social Security,” he said. “I can’t believe that given the debacle that’s occurred over the last two years.”
Bruun has talked about putting a portion of Social Security taxes into investment accounts and the back and forth between the two candidates became heated over the issue.
“Congressman, you know what you’re suggesting is absolutely disingenuous,” Bruun said. “I have not said privatize Social Security. I’ve said we have to put options on the table.”
“You’re on record, Scott,” Schrader fired back.
“I’m on record for saying we’ve got to put options on the table for people my age,” Bruun responded. “Just like our president said - as you just complimented the president - everything needs to be on the table, right? Do you not agree with that?”
The two candidates also differ over whether federal tax breaks for wealthy Americans should be allowed to sunset this December. Schrader wants the tax breaks to expire.
“We can’t afford to reauthorize spending on big businesses and, frankly, wealthy corporations that, frankly, have done pretty well over the last 15 or 20 years,” he said.
But Bruun wants the tax cuts left in place.
“It is absolutely unconscionable that going into a double-dip with 10.6 percent unemployment in Oregon that we’re talking about $4 trillion tax increase over 10 years,” he said.
The Cook Political Report, an independent, nonpartisan newsletter that analyzes campaigns, moved the status of the 5th Congressional District from voting “likely Democrat” to “leaning Democrat.” That means the race is moving closer to a tossup.
The Race for Governor - KATU.com interviews with Chris Dudley and John Kitzhaber
(Click on the pictures below to watch and read about the candidates' ideas on jobs and the economy)