U.S. debt pounded on in debate

U.S. debt pounded on in debate

Crawford says it trumps all else; Ellington touts bipartisanship

By Charlie Frago

JONESBORO — Republican incumbent Rick Crawford raised his central message of tackling the national debt at every opportunity during a 1st Congressional District debate Thursday, while Democratic challenger Scott Ellington emphasized his political independence and bipartisan instincts.

After the debate, Ellington said Crawford beat him.

“I felt like I wasn’t on my game,” Ellington said.

Ellington said he is used to standing before a judge when making an argument, not sitting at a table with other candidates.

Thursday’s debate at Arkansas State University was the first in which Crawford joined Ellington, Green Party candidate Jacob Holloway and Libertarian Party candidate Jessica Paxton.

For most of the 90-minute contest, Crawford and Ellington avoided direct jabs. The biggest disagreement of the debate was over outgoing 4th District U.S. Rep. Mike Ross.

Ellington said he viewed Ross, a Democrat, as a model, citing his political independence. Crawford said Ross voted 94 percent of the time with his party when Democrats controlled Congress in 2008-10.

“You might want to do more research,” Crawford said.

Ellington said after the debate that Ross, over his entire congressional career, voted with his party only about half the time.

But much of the debate found Crawford hammering home points about the debt while Ellington responded that the debt had been exacerbated by two wars and tax cuts for the wealthy.

The nation’s debt “trumps all other issues,” Crawford said. “It’s the single greatest threat to our national security.”

Crawford won in the 30-county district covering east Arkansas and parts of the Ozarks in 2010, the first time a Republican captured the district since Reconstruction.

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