Missouri's three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate squared off Monday night in what was expected to be a contentious debate at on the campus of .
The debate came days after St. Louis businessman John Brunner took aim at former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman and U.S. Congressman Todd Akin in an attack ad which criticized Steelman's votes in the state senate in support of bonds and Akin's votes on earmarks.
However, the candidates refrained from attacking one another for much of the debate, which was moderated by 97.1's Jamie Allman.
The three agreed on many issues ranging from the need to gradually increase the age of eligibility for social security to the need to completely repeal the Obama-backed healthcare law.
The first jab of the evening came from Steelman as she answered a question about which big-ticket items she’d cut from the federal budget. She mentioned starting with cutting foreign aid, or the department of education. “Although I wish you would have already cut those out of the budget,” she said, looking at Akin.
Akin responded by saying there are a lot of Democrats in Congress who disagree with the proposed conservative budgets. “Let’s make sure we have enough votes and then we’ll see how many departments we can get rid of,” he said.
Akin also said he would like to cut the departments of education, the environment and the EPA.
U.S. Involvement in Syria
Akin was the only one to take a strong stance against the U.S. military involvement in Syria. “Let’s not put ourselves in a no-win situation,” he said. “It’s tragic, and I’ll acknowledge that. But that doesn’t mean necessarily America can fix everything that’s broken in the whole world.”
Neither Steelman or Brunner said whether the U.S. should be involved presently, but Steelman said the U.S. should exhaust all nonmilitary means before being getting involved with troops.
Brunner said before any U.S. troops are put in harms way, the United States should have a clearly-defined mission, resources and a definition of victory.
Steelman, Akin Respond to Political Ad
Steve Nardoni, of Ellisville, was in the crowd of 1,100 people who attended the debate. He was undecided before the debate began, but said he liked what he heard about Brunner based on the ads he'd seen about him on TV.
After the debate, Steelman fired back at Brunner’s assertion that she was 'manufacturing debt', saying the ad is completely misleading.
“We kept our triple A rating,” she said. “We used bonds to build our state's assets and build infrastructure.“
Brunner said there’s nothing wrong with infrastructure spending but that in this situation the state borrowed $400 million bonds with over $150 million available immediately to cover deficit spending.
Throughout the debate, he positioned himself as an outsider, whose life experiences would bring skills that are missing among career politicians.
"We need to get back to the idea of the citizen senator," he said.
Both Steelman and Akin criticized Brunner’s comments during the debate about U.S. Supreme Court nominees needing to have a proven track record to win his support.
“Well, at the same time he’s saying that his track record is pretty much nonexistent. If he says it’s his business experience you have to look at it and see what it is,” Steelman said.
Akin has said his years of experience in the U.S. Congress give him a proven, principled record.
“I’ve been reelected time after time because people know my vote is not for sale,” he said.