THORNTON, Colo. (AP) – The economy and the federal debt dominated a debate by Colorado congressional candidates Monday, with both parties showing little movement from familiar talking points in the past month before the election.
Republican candidates hammered on the points that tax cuts and reduced government regulations are ways to spur the economy, while Democrats countered that tax breaks would continue to balloon the deficit.
The sharpest jabs between Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter and his Republican challenger, Joe Coors of the famed beer family.
Perlmutter repeated claims that Coors’ ceramics manufacturing company outsourced jobs overseas — a claim that Coors has repeatedly disputed. He has said his companies did business overseas but didn’t outsource jobs.
“It irritates me when I’m accused of outsourcing,” Coors said, adding, “I don’t know where that comes from.”
Coors went on to slam high taxes, concluding, “No wonder it is that businesses prefer to take their jobs offshore.”
Also at the Thornton debate were Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and his challenger, Brandon Shaffer, and Democratic Rep. Jared Polis and challenger Kevin Lundberg. The debate in Thornton included all six candidates answering moderated questions.
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman attended the debate but did not participate. His challenger, Democrat Joe Miklosi, passed on the event, citing a scheduling conflict.
The contest between Perlmutter and Coors in the 7th Congressional District covering the suburbs west of Denver is considered one the state’s most competitive races. Although the district leans Democratic, it has a large pool of unaffiliated voters.
The candidates also chimed in on looming budget cuts if Congress doesn’t agree on a spending plan.
Perlmutter said simply making cuts to the budget is not the answer to reducing the deficit. He said Bush-era tax breaks have contributed to the deficit.
“You can cut and cut and cut and cut yourself right out business,” Perlmutter said, talking about a budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee.
Coors shot back that raising taxes is the wrong path.
“Talk about raising taxes is the wrong way to go about it folks,” Coors said to light applause from the early-morning crowd.
That exchange underscored a major divide between the Republicans and Democrats on the panel. Democrats argued that government spending on education and transportation projects help the economy, while Republicans insisted that businesses would create plenty of jobs on their own.
“”We’ve got a regulatory environment that is punishing small job creators,” Gardner argued.
Gardner’s challenger countered that education spending is the better path to an improved economy.
“I think we start by putting the emphasis on education, that is the top priority,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer and Lundberg, both challenging incumbents considered safer than Perlmutter, avoided attacking their opponents but directed barbs at Congress as a whole. Shaffer, a Democrat, several times promised to work harder to forge compromise with the opposing party. Lundberg stuck to conservative talking points criticizing overreach by the federal government.
“Who’s in charge? Is it government or is it private business?” Lundberg asked.
On health care, Republicans blasted the Obama administration’s law, calling it more government intrusion that would ultimately fail. Democrats, meanwhile, lauded the law, with Polis saying that the “old approach to health care clearly didn’t work.”
By IVAN MORENO and By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
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