Eighth District candidates Larry Bucshon and Dave Crooks traded jabs in their only debate at Vincennes University on Wednesday.
While much of the debate touched on themes the two have mentioned, it was Crooks, the Democratic challenger from Washington, who brought a surprise to VU's Davis Hall, namely Pakistan.
Throughout the hour-long debate, Crooks routinely pointed to three votes Bucshon made in Congress to continue giving foreign aid to Pakistan, the neighbor to Afghanistan and the final home for terrorist Osama bin Laden.
"While this country was hiding one of the greatest terrorists in the world, (Buchson) was voting to give them billions," Crooks said.
Although there was no specific bills or resolution numbers mentioned from the Crooks campaign, the challenger said this was a big issue in the campaign. He referred to an earlier campaign ad and a sentence about foreign aid.
"(Bucshon) talks a big talk but he isn't finding ways to save taxpayer's money," Crooks said. "I'm outraged that we are sending money to countries like Pakistan."
Bucshon, in comments made after the debate, said he was not sure which specific votes Crooks was discussing.
"Could there have been a vote related to something like that? There could have been but I don't specifically what that was."
The congressman went on to say it is the direction of the State Department on where those funds go. Bucshon also said he has authored bills that would limit foreign aid to larger countries with high GDPs.
"If it was something I voted on, I would defend it but I just don't know what he was talking about," Bucshon said.
The two candidates did spar on questions brought by debate moderator Lynne Rump, including the role of Medicare. Crooks want to keep the current program and said Bucshon wants to create a voucher program, making seniors under the age of 55 pay an extra $6,400 a year in health care costs.
"I'm not going to let this program die," Crooks said.
Bucshon countered by saying the $6,400 charge was lie, and what needs to happen with Medicare is looking at the costs and how to bring those down.
"The only people in Washington you see attack Medicare is President Obama and that is what (Crooks) supports," Bucshon said. "My opponent and President Obama have their heads in the sand."
One of the more personal moments of the evening was spent on the role of coal, a large topic in the Eighth District.Crooks claimed Bucshon did not support mine workers if they received black lung. Bucshon denied that statement, and said he has fought to reduce government regulations on the coal industry.
Bucshon attacked Crooks on his support of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act the Congressman vows to repeal. The congressman does want to keep the popular aspects of the bill, like closing the Medicare drug coverage gap and keeping young adults on their parent's insurance, but said Crooks has changed his position.
Crooks, in response, said he changed his mind on health care because small businesses were not part of the solution.
"The biggest problem we've got is how do we make this affordable to small business?" Crooks said.
But for many of the questions, the two had similar answers and agreed on the role of government, immigration, higher education and gridlock in the political process. The two also agreed on abortion, a topic brought back into the forefront in the state following the comments of Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock on Tuesday.
The two both are pro-life and believe abortions should only be used in the exceptions of rape, incest and the health of the mother. After the debate, both candidates said they disagreed with Mourdock's statement that a mother who has child conceived in rape should not be allowed to have an abortion.
Libertarian Bart Gadau of Evansville cancelled early Wednesday. Organizers said he had a work conflict and could not attend.
The debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters for Knox and Vigo counties. Although this was the only debate between the two, they have participated in a national security forum near Crane and will be in another forum in Jasper on Monday.