Sestak said he had to clean up the mess left behind by irresponsible spending and tax-cutting under President George W. Bush. "We'd been torpedoed and had to caulk the holes," he said.
The two actually agreed that the tone of their race had grown negative, but neither accepted blame for it. Both defended their ads as issues-based and accurate.
In closing remarks, Sestak repeated his people approach in this election. "It is we the people. Not we the corporations; nor we Wall Street."
"They hold so much of our reserves. If they dumped them on the stock market--imagine what would happen. Remember, it really is a strong economy that undergirds our military. That undergirds our education, that undergirds our health system," said Sestak.
His rival agreed with him on that one.
Sestak's ads have targeted Toomey as far to the right. One uses Toomey's own words, saying his record is "indistinguishable" from staunchly conservative former Sen. Rick Santorum's. Ads from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee rip Toomey for his support of free trade and votes for policies the group says have shipped American jobs to China.
The free-market advocacy group Club for Growth, which Toomey once led, bought $1 million worth of advertising time in the Philadelphia media market Thursday for a new ad attacking Sestak as "just another liberal" dancing to the tune of President Obama and the Democratic leadership. "Yes, Joe Sestak served honorably in the Navy," the new 30-second spot says. "His service in Congress is the problem."
Sestak counters that Toomey's aversion to government regulation poses short- and long-term threats to the environment and the economy. Sestak has endorsed legislation that would bring Marcellus Shale drilling under the oversight of the Safe Drinking Water Act. He has echoed President Barack Obama's call for a strict moratorium on offshore drilling. Before the Deepwater Horizon spill, he expressed reservations about the administration's decision to expand the areas available for offshore drilling.
Those issues have provided ammunition for persistent sniping: "Toomey sides with Big Oil in the wake of BP disaster," Sestak charged in a press statements. "On energy, Sestak to the left of many Democrats," a Toomey statement contended.
Toomey claims Sestak's voting record is more liberal than the views of his state on energy as on other issues. On cap and trade, for example, Toomey notes that four of Sestak's colleagues in the House Democratic delegation voted against the bill.
Defending his vote in favor of cap-and-trade, Sestak counters that it would actually increase the number of jobs in the state in the longer term. Sestak invokes a a 2009 estimate that the bill would add more than 70,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. Sestak maintains that the carbon curbs would help protect the state's $4.7 billion agriculture industry. He concedes its emissions controls could lead to residential electricity price increases in the short term.
Toomey acknowledges that global warming exists but he is an agnostic on the crucial question of whether it is a product of human activity. "There's no question that the Earth's surface temperature has increased," he said in a statement. "There is much debate in the scientific community as to the precise sources of global warming."
Sestak said global warming is principally man-made, citing a series of scientific findings on the matter. "I know Congressman Toomey is quite extreme, quite radical, but the vast majority of the mainstream says yes, it is man-made," he said.
In keeping with those positions, the opponents split this week on a closely watched Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, that would have stripped the EPA of the ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Sestak's campaign said he would have opposed the measure. Toomey supported the bill.
Sestak ignored the requests, called his service honorable and aggressively worked to tie Specter to the policies of former Pres. Bush. "There is no record except the Republican record for Arlen Specter," Sestak said.
Specter countered that he had stood with Democrats on their top priorities, even during his 28 years as a Republican. Specter switched parties last year.
Sestak has said he was reassigned in 2005 because the newly appointed chief naval officer wanted his own team in charge. Specter has cited a report in the Navy Times that said Sestak was reassigned from his job as deputy chief of naval operations for creating a poor command climate--a term for morale.
"I learned in the Navy to expect what you inspect," said Sestak, a retired admiral who served for 30 years in the Navy before being elected to Congress in 2006. "Even little league football has a referee on the field. He [Toomey] removed the referee from Wall Street."
Toomey said he admired Sestak's creative mind, but said his opponent did not understand the financial system. The real threat to the economy, he said, is in the billions of dollars spent on bailouts for banks and the auto industry, along with the economic stimulus and now a health-care regime that he said were all pushing the deficit to stratospheric levels. "Some people believe if you are productive and successful you should get soaked and get soaked hard. I just don't believe in that," Toomey said.
Toomey lashed back saying he would work to repeal health care reform and replace it with other measures such as the purchase of insurance across state lines.
The two candidates found some common ground on questions geared toward the economy. Both said federal spending needs to be reduced.
"When I was (in Congress) I was fighting against the spending that was going on," said Toomey.
Sestak said he would like to see the government extend help to the group he says drives the economy--"The working family, not Wall Street"--by getting tax cuts to that group.
Sestak said he does not support the flat tax as he said Toomey does, and the government should look to guarantee community bank loans to entice borrowers.
Toomey said he believes in strengthening the economy through lower taxes, less spending and increasing domestic energy production.
The above quotations are from 2010 Pennsylvania Senate Debates.
Click here for other excerpts from 2010 Pennsylvania Senate Debates.
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