Eighth District candidates Larry Bucshon and Dave Crooks traded jabs in their only debate on Wednesday at Vincennes University.
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 the topic of Pakistan.
Throughout the hour-long debate, Crooks routinely pointed to three votes he said Bucshon made in Congress to continue giving foreign aid to Pakistan, the neighbor to Afghanistan and the final home for Osama bin Laden.
“While this country was hiding one of the greatest terrorists in the world, [Bucshon] 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 is a big issue. 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 know 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 gross domestic products.
The two candidates spar red on questions brought by debate moderator Lynne Rump, including the role of Medicare. Crooks wasn’t 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 a 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.”
Bucshon attacked Crooks on his support of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, which the congressman vows to repeal. Bucshon wants to keep the popular aspects of the bill, like closing the Medicare drug coverage gap and keeping young adults on their parents’ 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 controversial comments by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock on Tuesday.
Crooks and Bucshon both are pro-life and believe abortions should be used only 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 canceled out of the debate 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.