Senate hopefuls oppose second stimulus packageST. PAUL — The candidates for U.S. Senate have found common ground: they would oppose a second economic stimulus package.
By: Scott Wente, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — The candidates for U.S. Senate have found common ground: they would oppose a second economic stimulus package.
In a Friday night debate among the three major candidates, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman said he would vote against another package similar to what Congress passed earlier this year that put government checks in taxpayer mailboxes.
“If it’s another spending package, I’m not going to support it,” Coleman said, adding he would be open to a deal if it cut taxes for small businesses.
Democrat Al Franken, who verbally sparred with Coleman in their fourth debate, agreed with his GOP challenger.
“I don’t like that,” Franken said of congressional chatter about the possibility of a second economic stimulus package yet this year. The best way to help the economy would be to start new infrastructure projects, cut taxes for the middle class and invest in renewable energy.
There is no evidence the first package — known for its $600 checks to individuals — did anything to improve the U.S. economy, Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley said. Americans have lost faith in Wall Street, Congress and the presidency.
“The only thing that’s going to work is when people start believing in their institutions again,” Barkley said.
Talk of a second economic package came when the candidates met for their fourth debate, on Twin Cities Public Television’s “Almanac” public affairs show.
There was little agreement beyond that issue, though, as Franken criticized Coleman for his first-term record and the senator fired back by accusing the Democrat of misrepresenting him.
The one-hour debate’s loose format — no timed answers or formal opening or closing statements — yielded the candidate’s most lively exchange of the campaign.
Franken tried to say he and Coleman agreed on gun rights and the 2nd Amendment. He said he supports the amendment and gun ownership.
“That is a stunning statement,” Coleman responded. Franken has written about his opposition to gun rights and got a failing grade from the National Rifle Association.
Barkley, who polls show is trailing Franken and Coleman by at least 15 points, played the role he has in previous debates. He presented himself as an alternative to gridlocked Democrats and Republicans.
The candidates were before a national audience; the debate was broadcast live nationwide on C-SPAN 2.
The candidates were tense during the debate, but were in lighter spirits beforehand. When “Almanac” co-host Cathy Wurzer suggested to her fellow host, and husband, Eric Eskola that his socks were sagging, all three candidates also pulled up their socks.
And Franken, the former comedian, could be heard telling a story about how he promised to buy a new tie for Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, his Democratic primary opponent.
Afterward, Coleman told TPT he was a fan of the debate format, which did not have timed answers, and suggested it be twice as long in the future.
The candidates will meet one more time, in a Minnesota Public Radio-sponsored debate at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2.
Recent polls have given Franken a slight edge, but his leads have been within the margins of errors, so the race still is considered a toss-up.
With just 10 days remaining before the election, the candidates are back on the campaign trail today.
Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.