GOP House Candidates Debate For The First Time
Ed Martin and Ann Wagner traded light jabs on endorsements and disagreement over immigration policy in the first debate between candidates for Missouri's new second district U.S. House seat.
Ten months before next August's primary, voters had their first chance over the weekend to see the two candidates vying for the Republican nomination to represent Missouri's newly redrawn second congressional district in Congress stand side by side and debate the issues.
Ed Martin and Ann Wagner, who were both in the audience on the May day in Creve Coeur when Todd Akin announced he would run for the Senate instead of another term in the House, were back together for the debate at the Drury Plaza in Chesterfield Saturday afternoon.
While there were opportunities to see some differences both candidates directed most of their fire at President Obama and Congress.
The hour-long session gave candidates the chance to echo themes they've already been putting to use on the campaign trail. Wagner, the former RNC Co-Chair, touted endorsements, including one from former Missouri Governor, U.S. Senator and Attorney General John Ashcroft, which she announced in her opening statement, as evidence of her Conservative credentials in her first campaign for elected office.
Martin, who served as the Chief of Staff for Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and who was narrowly defeated by Rep. Russ Carnahan in 2010, consistently returned to a theme that "voting is not enough."
Questions were submitted by audience members and were posed by State Rep. Tim Jones (R-Eureka) and State Republican Committee Member Chris Howard, of Ballwin.
There were no gaffes to speak of from the candidates. The questions ranged from issues regarding health care and government regulation to topics which organizers admitted have tripped up the party's Presidential candidates so far, including Social Security and immigration, where Martin used the only rebuttal of the event to press Wagner.
Both candidates said they supported securing the borders and opposed amnesty for illegals, but Martin redirected and asked Wagner to address concerns over the idea that Republican administrations, including the Bush administration she supported as a fundraiser and later as an ambassador to Luxembourg, backed the idea of amnesty as part of a "path to citizenship." Wagner said immigration was "many things in his (President George W. Bush) policies, that I did not agree with,"
When asked if Social Security was a ponzi scheme, Wagner called it bankrupt, broken and in need of reform. Martin rsponded, "I don't want to take on Rick Perry here today...he hasn't endorsed you yet, has he Ann?," referencing the Texas Governor who made the statement in a recent GOP presidential debate.
Wagner bounced back on the next exchange. When Martin referenced the work done by the Matt Blunt Administration (while he was Chief of Staff) in creating the Missouri Accountability Portal as a way of creating government transparency on spending, Wagner poked back "You just teed yourself one too many times. Matt Blunt also had a great state party chairman (Wagner) who defeated Claire McCaskill and we'll defeat her again, she said, adding that Matt Blunt's father, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, had endorsed her campaign.
Afterward, Wagner told Patch that her first debate as a candidate for elective office was "exhilarating," and emphasized her ability to connect with grass root campaign efforts on top of the high-profile endorsements.
Martin described it as enjoyable, if not fun, adding that Wagner is a "great sport."