Posted: Oct 20, 2012 10:54 PM by MTN News
Updated: Oct 21, 2012 4:07 PM
BOZEMAN - Tension buzzed through the room Saturday night at the Riverside Country Club in Bozeman as U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D) and U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg (R) engaged in their final debate before Montanans head to the polls to vote for their next senator.
The candidates shook hands on stage before taking off the gloves. The two fielded questions from a panel of journalists from MTN stations across the state. Topics ranged from the estate tax to campaign spending and negative advertisements. But subjects they kept going back to were healthcare and the economy.
Eric Austin, associate professor of political science at Montana State University weighed in after the debate. He noted that tonight's debate had an incredible amount of energy with both candidates sticking to their talking points. Tester called Rehberg's record in Congress irresponsible Meanwhile, Rehberg talked about Tester's voting record and his alignment with Obama.
Tester said he believes insurance companies need to be a held accountable.
"A group of two gets taken to the cleaners by the insurance companies," he said, noting that he and his wife are small business owners; they're farmers. There was a time, he said, when they didn't have health insurance, which was scary. We have to get people insured, he said.
Rehberg pointed out that he and his wife are small business owners as well; they're ranchers. Rehberg said when they got started they had to go through the local bank to get health insurance.
When given the opportunity to ask each other a question, Rehberg pressed Tester about "Obamacare," asking how he could justify it.
Tester told Rehberg that he should have read the bill, adding that this is not government healthcare; it is about trying to get more competition in the marketplace. The old system didn't work, Tester said.
Then it was Tester's turn to ask Rehberg a question. Tester asked the Congressman what his thought process was when he voted to make Medicare a voucher system.
I've never voted to harm Medicare, Rehberg said, adding he will always vote to help social security and Medicare. He said he will never vote to privatize social security or Medicare.
Going to a viewer question, the candidates were asked: If you could pass one piece of legislation to better Montana what would you put inside it?
"We have to move the economy forward. That's the number one issue," Tester said.
Rehberg responded that his first order of business would be to repeal "Obamacare," adding that he would be proud to carry legislation to repeal "Obamacare."
The candidates were also asked about the estate tax.
Tester said he would exempt all farms, ranches and small businesses from the estate tax.
Rehberg said he wanted to eliminate the "death tax" for all businesses.
Wrapping up, Tester said in his closing statements that we are back in 1912, a time when big corporations could give unlimited money to a campaign and that is scary for a democracy.
Everybody is worried about the direction this country is taking and it's time to go in a new direction, Rehberg said.
Recent polls show Tester and Rehberg are neck-and-neck in this race, which is being closely watched across the country.