Incumbent congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colorado, and Democratic opponent Betsy Markey met in debate Thursday night at the Colorado State University Center for the Arts, discussing renewable energy programs, bipartisan work, health insurance and job market stability for students in the face of economic turmoil.
The two are battling for the Fourth Congressional District seat of Colorado, which, after 30 years of Republican control, has become an intensely competitive seat in the House of Representatives due to the catastrophic economic conditions and a resulting negative national Republican Party image.
And with the economy in such a state, both candidates highlighted the necessity of creating jobs for the rising generation of students who will inherit it.
"I voted no on the $700 billion bailout plan, and worked in a bipartisan way to do so; it was a hasty decision and not a solution to the problem. We have to go back in January and bring down the cost of energy," Musgrave said.
The two jointly expressed disapproval of the recently passed multi-billion dollar bailout plan, which they said puts an unfair burden on taxpayers.
"I'm outraged we let the problem even get to this point," Markey said. "We've mopped the floor but haven't fixed the leaky roof."
The front lawn of the UCA was littered with political signs as voters rallied and shouted chants in support of their desired candidate as hundreds of people filtered in to see the deliberation.
Adam Schrager, a channel 9News political reporter, moderated the hour-long debate, which addressed what young people should consider when entering the job market.
"Education in this state is critical," Markey said. "We have to make sure that our universities are the strongest they can be. These kids are the generation of our future."
Markey and Musgrave agreed on the need to move toward renewable energy programs, but where Musgrave argued that moving away from oil industries would result in lost jobs and a further damaged economy, Markey said that new energy programs would create jobs and alternatives to oil and gas.
"We need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Markey said, citing specific energy research projects at CSU like the "smart grid" research, which looks to optimize electrical grids to make them more productive and efficient.
The back-and-forth smear ads that each candidate has run against the other throughout the race were also discussed.
Musgrave defended herself against attacks that she does not support troops in Iraq, saying that she is a mother of a soldier in Iraq and has many ties to the military in her family.
Moving on to discuss ballot initiatives, the two took opposing views on Amendment 58, which would take a tax subsidy away from oil and gas companies; Markey said she supports, and Musgrave said she opposes.
They also disagreed on Amendment 46, the "civil rights initiative" that would ban gender preference in government-sponsored programs, which include affirmative action programs; Markey opposes, and Musgrave supports.
Again a disagreement came when each candidate was asked about Amendment 48, the "personhood amendment," which would define life at conception and unconditionally criminalize abortion, in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control; Markey opposes, and Musgrave supports.
However, the election of either candidate does not mean the amendments they support will pass.
The audience did not agree upon the debate's winner. Sophomore business student Andrew Griffin said that Musgrave's argument had no substance and Markey was a clear winner, but n elderly passer-by laughed out loud in a lucid difference of opinion.
Associated Students of CSU clerk Emily Krogman said that she came to hear the debate completely neutral to the candidates but was swayed by Markey's arguments.
"She was more concise and didn't tiptoe around the issues," she said. "But it was a little hard to understand all of the questions; I'm definitely not dead set on either candidate."
Freshman Kristin Guettler agreed with her friend, Krogman.
"It was more the way in which they answered the questions that mattered," Guettler said. "Everyone just says what you want them to, but this was a great starting point to look at the issues I still have to do my own research."
Debate moderator Schrager echoed the idea that the important yield of the debate was a look at who these candidates are as people.
"We could have gone on for another two hours discussing a host of important issues," he said. "I would have liked to have asked more about college affordability, tax issues or agricultural issues, but the goal for me is that at the end of the hour the people have a better idea of who the person is, more than who the politician is."