Choice seems 'stark' in 2nd

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
— One thing Tammy Baldwin and Peter Theron agree on is that they can't agree on almost anything.

The candidates for the 2nd Congressional District made that point clear in a debate at Beloit College on Tuesday. But they did it on the issues, without personal attacks.

Here's a rundown of some issues on which incumbent Democrat Baldwin and Republican challenger Theron disagreed:

College costs

Theron said the federal deficit must be addressed, and that means across-the-board cuts in most government spending programs, including student aid.

Increasing student aid encourages colleges to increase tuition, Theron said.

"I cannot stand here and honestly tell you that yes, I'm going to play Santa Claus and give you more money," said Theron to an audience that was about 60 percent college-age.

Theron held out the hope that a revived economy would mean more people could afford college and could donate to the colleges from which they graduated.

Baldwin said government should do more to assure that students do not leave college with the massive debt loads that are common today, including more grants to more people and lower interest rates on student loans.

Theron said he also would strengthen K-12 education so more are able to qualify for college or to go into the trades.

"Higher education is a wonderful thing. I benefited from it," Theron said. "But it's not for everyone."

The economy

Theron said he would work to root out "corruption and bloated spending" that he said are the sources of the country's economic woes. He said the $700 billion bailout that Congress passed with Baldwin's support was the wrong measure.

Baldwin said the bailout was not the blank check for which President Bush asked. Rather, it includes oversight and safeguards, and if Wall Street companies snap back and make profits, the bill ensures that taxpayers share in those profits.

Theron said he would not ask for earmark funding for his district and would oppose earmarks by other members. Baldwin has touted her record of obtaining earmark funding for economic development, health care and infrastructure.

Theron said Congress should sacrifice so that it, in turn, can ask the American public to sacrifice.

"Government spending is not going to be the answer," Theron said.

Theron repeated again and again that lowering taxes and reducing regulations are needed to stimulate the economy.


Theron said the United States should exploit more of its own oil reserves. That includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he said in a separate interview.

More oil will mean lower prices, and that will stimulate the economy and take away a weapon that enemies might use against the United States, Theron said.

Both candidates favor alternative energy sources, including nuclear power plants.

Baldwin stresses wind, solar and cellulosic energy and says investment in "green" technologies will address environmental concerns and create well paying jobs as it revives the economy.

Baldwin talked about college loan forgiveness for students going into science and engineering, the professions that she said can revitalize the economy.

Theron welcomes wind and solar but says they cannot stand on their own.

Baldwin touted her work on the Energy Independence and Security Act, which included $25 billion in grants to retool the U.S. auto industry.

"We can't turn our backs on the auto industry because we need to keep these high-paying jobs here in the United States," Baldwin said.

Theron said Congress' imposition of fuel economy standards on automakers led to the slump in demand for American-made autos, including those made in Janesville.

In a statement released this week, Theron blamed Baldwin on this issue, saying: "The problem is not that the workers in Janesville are making unwanted products. The problem is that Tammy Baldwin has closed the door to selling them."

Baldwin replied that as General Motors announced its shutdowns of plants in Janesville and elsewhere, executives cited slumping sales but never mentioned fuel economy standards.

Health care

Baldwin wants to give states the authority to create their own universal health-care plans. She also called for insuring every child in America.

Theron said government-run health care would sacrifice either availability, which he said is the case in Canada, or quality, as in Cuba. Either way, American health care would suffer, he said.

Theron said small businesses should be allowed to join co-ops to buy health coverage. He said federal health-care mandates should be removed to lower costs, and he called for health savings accounts.


Baldwin said she supports Barack Obama's plan to withdraw, leaving only a token force to protect U.S. citizens. She said that would save $10 billion a month.

Theron said the United States is saving more than that amount by staying in Iraq. He said he believes that U.S. forces' presence is defending the United States against the high costs of another 9/11 attack.

Theron said America owes its troops victory.

Baldwin said the United States already has won by deposing Saddam Hussein and planting Democratic institutions in Iraq. She said Iraq's problems now are political, not military, and should be addressed by Iraqis.

The debate was controlled by a panel of questioners with audience questions, none of which delved into social issues such as abortion or gay marriage.

In the end, Theron and Baldwin both used the word "stark" to describe their differences.

But Theron said there is one thing they do agree on: That this is the greatest country in the world, and they both want to keep it that way.


Tammy Baldwin and Peter Theron are scheduled to debate again Thursday night in Madison. The event is set for 7 p.m. in Room 113 of the Brogden Psychology Building on the UW-Madison campus, 1202 W. Johnson St.

Last updated: 10:40 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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