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Live congressional debate features verbal fisticuffs

Bill Sali came out fighting at tonight’s live League of Women Voters-Idaho Press Club debate on Idaho Public TV, ignoring repeated admonishments from the moderator and ripping into opponent Larry Grant. The initial question to Sali from AP reporter John Miller was about one of his campaign expenditures. Here’s how he answered:

“Well, first, thanks to the Press Club and the League of Women voters for the opportunity to debate in public. You need to know that even Larry Grant’s campaign manager has acknowledged quote Grant’s positions on the issues might be problematic unquote in this district. Larry’s done everything possible to hide from his real positions by calling himself a …”

At that point, moderator Marcia Franklin of Idaho Public TV cut in with, “Mr. Sali, could you please answer the question that was asked of you?” “I’m getting to it,” Sali responded. “We have no opening comments,” Franklin said. “Thank you.”

But Sali continued. “He’s hoping that his Bill Clinton-like parsing will fool voters long enough to get elected,” he said. “Folks, if he does get elected he will have his way with you, then send you the bill. Tonight I will try to explain my opponent’s…”

At that point, Franklin cut in again. “Mr. Sali, we have no opening comments. Please answer Mr. Miller’s question.”

“And how dramatically different they are from mine,” Sali said. Then he answered the question, which was about what services SPARTAC LLC, a company formed by attorney Christ Troupis just before the payments began, provided to the campaign for $120,000 (“media advice, media purchasing, some polling information”).

In other highlights from the debate, United Party candidate Andy Hedden-Nicely explained why he lives in the 2nd District but is running for Congress in the 1st District: “Idaho law sets the qualifications for running for this office, and I meet all of the qualifications for running for this office,” he said. “I have worked and lived in the district most of the 25 years that I’ve been in Idaho. … What I feel like is that it’s not so important to the voters where I sleep every night, what’s important to these voters are issues like affordable health insurance for small businesses, the graft and corruption that’s going on in Congress and the division between the two political parties. … I love this district very much, I’ve been in this district a lot and I don’t think that anybody who knows me and knows of my involvement here has any questions about my commitment or my love for this district.”

Grant was asked why the national Democratic Party hasn’t stepped in with financial help to help Grant counter hundreds of thousands in out-of-state independent expenditures for attack ads by the Republican National Congressional Committee and the Club for Growth. He responded, “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been supportive. They have given me advice, they have helped where they can. But there are now 60-odd races in the United States that are competitive, 43, 44 of those are highly competitive. It takes 15 seats to change control of the House of Representatives, and they have to use their money where they think it’s going to do the most good. And in this case, you know, when you look at a map, if you’re in Washington, D.C. and you look at a map, Idaho doesn’t float to the top as being a Democratic state. I can tell you that they’re very pleased that the Republicans have felt they have to spend the money here because they can’t spend it somewhere else.”

Other notable quotes from the debate:

Sali said, “I’m not ready to say that I do or don’t believe in global warming.”

Grant said, “The only way to stop the violence in Iraq is to give local control to local leaders. … Instead of disarming those militias we should be recruiting them to help us stop the violence.” Sali said, “For those who think that our presence over there is not doing any good or doing more harm than good, I invite you to talk to any of our soliders… They will tell you, and they have told me repeatedly to a person, how much the Iraqi people on the ground appreciate our efforts over there and how much they love the United States of America for the work that we have done over there.”

Hedden-Nicely said, “Now as we’ve seen and you’ve seen this very night, the constant bickering and the carrying on between these two political parties has gotten this country where we are today.”

Independent Dave Olson repeatedly threatened to “put a sharp stick in their ribs” to get other members of Congress to trim federal spending. The candidates also clashed on immigration, health care and more. You can watch the whole debate online at www.idahoptv.org.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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