Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, the future of the middle class, mining, transportation, and the dismal congressional approval rating were all topics of debate Tuesday when Congressman Chip Cravaack and his democratic challenger Rick Nolan took the stage for their first debate.
The words were flying.
"He believes that EPA regulations create jobs," Cravaack criticized.
"We can spin this all we want, but at the end of the day, the record is, what the record is," Nolan spewed at the Congressman later in the debate.
First up was the issue of Medicare. Nolan says he wants to preserve the current system, but eliminate waste and fraud.
"We have to make sure that the system is viable, and do what it takes to make it viable. But we don't do it by doing what our Congressman has suggested which is turning it into some voucher system or essentially turn it over to the insurance industry," said the former Congressman.
Cravaack says he is not touting a voucher program, but a bi-partisan house plan that offers a "premium support model".
"If you are 55 years and older, nothing changes for you. But if you are 54 and younger, there has to be a change because there will be nothing in 2022. It gives future seniors options, the same options federal employees get."
Another hot topic this election season has been the middle class. Both candidates gave their insights on how to strengthen small business and as a result, help the middle class.
"There is one thing that stimulates a real honest to goodness business owner to invest in new equipment and hire new personnel, and build new facilities and that's demand for your product," said Nolan.
"You can't create demand artificially from the government, you have to create demand from the people. And you do that by two things: you give them a tax code that they can work with, and you eliminate the rules and regulations," said Cravaack.
A topic that couldn't be ignored was Congress' 13% approval rating (according to Gallup).
Cravaack said he was just as frustrated as the American people, but that all the blame shouldn't be placed on the House.
"I feel it too. I'm extremely frustrated. In the aspect that, when we create bi-partisan legislation in the house, we've got 38 bills sitting on the senate side waiting for Senator Reid to take them up."
Congressman Cravaack also criticized the former Congressman for his voting record from when he was in office over 30 years ago.
Nolan defended his record, saying he was with constituents during those few meetings he missed.
"I served in elected office for ten years and I was there well over 90% of the time and we cast a heck of a lot more votes than your congress is casting."
It was an hour long battle over policy, records, and character, that is sure to continue in the next two debates.
Mining was also a hot topic. In general, both say they support mining jobs and a speedy yet environmentally sound permitting process.
But there was a portion of mining law that Cravaack seemed to stray from Nolan about.
Cravaack stressed that regulatory controls should be in the hands of local agencies instead of federal bureaucracies in Washington.
The next debate will take place next week on a twin cities local TV program.