In Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District race Sunday it came down to the national debt verses jobs.
Longtime incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Simpson and Democratic challenger state Senator Nicole LeFavour debated from the State Capitol on Idaho Public Television. Simpson frequently turned the topic back to what he says is the nation’s most pressing problem; reducing the debt.
“I don’t know if anyone has a grasp of what $16 trillion is,” Simpson said. “But I will tell you, if we don’t solve this problem we won’t have to worry about Medicare or Social Security or military, we won’t have to worry about the EPA or anything else because the country will fail. We will be Greece. That means we have to make some tough choices.”
LeFavour tried to keep the focus on how budget cuts affect people’s lives. She called jobs and wages the fundamental problem of the economy. She then listed groups she said would be hurt by the kind of budget cuts Simpson advocates. Those included college students faced with loan debt, and small businesses.
“We have to look at the way cuts to education and Medicaid hurt schools and raise taxes,” LeFavour said. “But we have to keep seniors secure, we have an obligation. And for those who are in generations like my own, we have to promise that we’re not going to be working in low wage jobs until the day we die.”
LeFavour repeatedly tried to tie Simpson to the austere budget championed by Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Simpson countered saying he favored the more moderate Simpson-Bowles plan that includes budget cuts and increasing taxes.
Women’s issues were also a key back and forth in the debate. It started with a question about the gender pay gap from StateImpact Idaho’s Emilie Ritter Saunders. LeFavour began to attack Simpson’s record even suggesting he lacked respect for women. LeFavour pointed out that Simpson had been calling her Nicole during the debate.
“Congressman, you’ve chosen to call me by my first name and I am a sitting senator and I serve in this building and have for eight years,” she said. “And I think the issue of respect is an important one. You were a co-sponsor of a bill which redefined and weakened the definition of rape down to forcible rape.”
LeFavour then said Simpson had been part of a trend in congress of disrespect for women. Simpson distanced himself from some of the most socially conservative members of his party. He did say he was proud to be pro-life and defended the bill LeFavour mentioned because it restricted circumstances in which taxpayer money could go towards abortion. But he said he did not know at first that inserting the term “forcible” would exclude some kinds of rape.
“We went to the sponsor of the bill and said take that out. And they did. And it passed congress without that language in there,’ he said. “So to try to tie me to statements made by some other Republicans is just, is just beyond the pale…senator.”
You can listen to the entire debate between Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District candidates on KBSX 91.5 Tuesday night at 7:00.