The first U.S. Senate debate in Wisconsin’s four-way Republican primary mirrored much of the back-and-forth on the airwaves between three of the candidates.
In the debate broadcast by WTAQ, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald emphasized being instrumental in eliminating a $3.6 billion state budget deficit without raising taxes. Eric Hovde touted his strong private sector business building and strong conservative roots with a father who served in the Reagan administration. Mark Neumann mentioned his time in the U.S. House in the 90s that saw budget surpluses and a Congressional voting record ranked very high among conservative groups. Tommy Thompson talked of his time as governor when he cut income taxes and “eliminated welfare.”
A good chunk of time was spent fighting over who is running the most misleading ads about opponents. Thompson said Hovde was the “first” to go negative. “I have not touched one negative ad,” responded the political newcomer saying he has been on the receiving end of a Thompson attack. Hovde added he and Thompson were targeted by the group Club for Growth, Neumann’s campaign, and the camp of Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin. Neumann pointed to Hovde’s “mud ad” as mud-slinging against himself and Thompson.
On policy issues, Hovde targeted Thompson for recent comments made to Wisconsin Eye the former governor supposedly made. Hovde claimed that Thompson said Social Security is not a problem. Hovde said the entitlement program is “already hemorrhaging money,” a claim Thompson rebuked.
When accused by Hovde of being a “career candidate,” Neumann, a real estate developer, mentioned his friends in the home-building industry who didn’t get government bail outs, a jab at Hovde’s background as a hedge fund manager.
Fitzgerald said people are “fed up” with this kind of talk and said they should be focusing on the Democrat Baldwin.
AUDIO: Brian Moon reports (1:40)