WICHITA, Kan. (KSNT) – U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and independent candidate Greg Orman squared off in their final debate of the 2014 political campaign Thursday night finding little common ground.
The one-hour long televised debate covered a wide variety of topics including immigration reform, securing our borders, Farm Bill reform, the aviation industry and water rights.
At one point the incumbent three term Republican Roberts called independent candidate Greg Orman’s position on abortion “unconscionable” during the last debate in their race in Kansas.
Orman prompted that response from the three-term Republican incumbent Wednesday evening by saying the nation needs to move past the debate on abortion to tackle other important issues.
The race has received national attention since Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out last month, making Roberts more vulnerable and jeopardizing Republicans’ drive to win a Senate majority.
Orman is an abortion-rights supporter. Roberts opposes abortion.
Roberts said he doesn’t know how the nation gets past the issue of the rights of unborn children.
Orman said he trusts women to make decisions about reproductive health care.
On other topics Roberts, who sometimes appeared uncertain about what he wanted to say, frequently described Orman as a liberal Democrat who has received the endorsement of the AFL/CIO. “My opponent describes himself as an independent, but he can’t stand-up to the Obama-Reid agenda.” Roberts frequently referred to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) the Senate Majority Leader as the man behind Washington’s gridlock.
Orman called Roberts “part of the problem” in Washington, saying the incumbent has spent so much time in Washington, D.C. he is out of touch with mainstream Kansans. “Washington is broken,” he said “if we don’t start solving problems the existence of the middle class is at risk.”
Orman says as an independent, small businessman he has developed a specific plan for job creation saying he’s proposed a plan to roll back Dodd-Frank regulations on community and regional banks to promote job growth and to review every 10 years federal regulations on small business.
Roberts countered that he’s received the support of the US Chambers of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businessmen, which he says have branded Orman as a “liberal Democrat”. Orman accused Roberts of “making up” facts and said “I’m proud of my private sector track record.”
Roberts took a swipe at that record, questioning Orman’s investment in a “shrimp farm, in the desert of Nevada” paid for with a $3 million dollar federal grant.
Both voiced concerned about US efforts to combat ISIS, a militant Islamic group now battling in the Middle East, but look at it from different perspectives. Roberts saying it’s another reason the US needs to strengthen its borders, Orman saying the situation is “no longer a US war, it’s a Middle Eastern war”.
On immigration, Roberts says Senate Republicans have repeatedly tried to more strictly control US borders but repeatedly run into blocking moves by the Democrat controlled US Senate.
“If you come across illegally, you have to go back,” stated Roberts “there should not be any amnesty. We have 167,000 convicted felons in the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security, we have ISIS and Ebola, we do not have adequate security.”
Roberts responded that tougher security is important, and more border control agents are now in place, however the answer is a graduated path to US citizenship.
“Whole industries in Kansas would be decimated by mass deportations of the 11 1/2 million illegal immigrants now in the US,” says Orman.
He also said the US needs to launch an information campaign in central America telling parents that if their children come to the US they will be sent home.
Turning to agriculture, Roberts was criticized by Orman for voting against the latest version of the Farm bill, Roberts countered that he supports Kansas farmers and voted against the bill because the majority of the money in the bill goes to the USDA’s Food Stamp program.
“83 percent of the current bill goes to Food Stamps,” says Roberts who added that a major shake-up is needed to see make the Department of Agriculture spends more resources on helping farmers not helping those on welfare.
Orman agreed the Food Stamp program needs to be re-examined and means tested. “We need to create jobs where people don’t need Food Stamps”, he said “we need to make it easier for Americans to get ahead not make it easier to do nothing with your life.”
In closing, the challenger told voters “If you think Washington is working, then don’t vote for me. If you think sending back someone who is part of a broken system is the right thing to do, don’t vote for me. Join me in sending a message that the status quo is no longer acceptable, that if you don’t roll up your sleeves and find solutions we’ll find candidates who will. I’m that candidate.”
Roberts, in closing, said “President Obama said this election is about his legacy. There is only one way we will stop the Obama-Reid agenda and that’s to elect a Republican majority. That’s why many of our leader4s have come to endorse me. It’s not about me, it’s about the future of the country and they know I will vote for a majority against a dictator and the Reid agenda.”
In a single exchange of levity when asked to say something nice about the other candidate, Orman described Roberts as a “gentleman” and appreciated Roberts’ service “to his country, including is service with the US Marine Corps.” Roberts replied “Sempre Fi”, then complimented Orman on “..his accumulation of wealth, however it was earned, because that’s part of the American Dream.” Roberts also noted Orman has a “nice smile and dresses well”.
The candidates were also asked, off camera, questions to which the answers can only be found in this article:
Mr. Orman, it was recently reported that you are worth tens of millions of dollars. In Kansas, the median household income is a little over $50,000 a year. How do you represent your state and constituents when there is such a massive gap in terms of wealth, possessions and lifestyle between yourself and the average Kansan?
People have connected with our campaign because they know – like I do – that the system in Washington is broken and is failing Kansans. People know the career politicians in like Senator Roberts in Washington are part of the problem, and they want someone who can solve problems instead of play partisan games.
I grew up sharing one bathroom with five siblings and my mother. I got free school lunch as a kid, worked my way through college, and graduated with student loans. I know what it’s like to struggle to pay the bills and I know what folks go through, because that’s what my family went through.
I’ve worked hard. I started a small business that through hard work and a little luck was successful. We grew that business to 120 workers – creating jobs for a lot of hard working folks – before we sold it. Since then, and I’ve helped run many small businesses, and created jobs. The people of Kansas want someone who knows how to get things done and knows how to help the economy grow. A politician like Senator Pat Roberts who has been in Washington for the last 47 years doesn’t know what it takes, because he hasn’t done it.
Senator Roberts, during your 1996 run for Senate, you criticized your opponent for vacationing in Colorado rather than Kansas. In 2008, you criticized your opponent for living in Washington, D.C. rather than Kansas. This year you were quoted as saying, “It’s not the days, it’s the results” in reference to how much time you spend in Kansas. Why the change?
“There is no change. Dodge City is my home, and I’m damn proud of it. I am a fourth generation Kansan, and I couldn’t be prouder of my Kansas roots. I work hard everyday for Kansas. I stand up to the liberal Barack Obama-Harry Reid Agenda and deliver conservative results in Washington. I travel all 105 counties, corner to corner, border to border talking with and listening to the concerns of Kansans when at home. I have spent my life serving our great state, and I hope to continue to fight for conservative Kansas values in the Senate. My opponent, however, would never fight for Kansas. He would simply be another rubber stamp for the Obama-Reid liberal agenda.”
The election is November 4th.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.