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No Debate That Candidates Can Entertain Chenoweth, Williams Engage In Animated Sparring

Native Americans are getting special rights and need to blend in to American society instead, U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth said during a Thursday night debate.

“They have brought a proud heritage to America, but the fact is: A decision has to be made - are they a sovereign nation or are they citizens of the United States of America?” Chenoweth asked.

“All peoples without regard to their nationality should be able to blend into the American society … without receiving special rights,” she added.

Republican Chenoweth squared off against Democratic challenger Dan Williams in an animated - sometimes biting, occasionally amusing - debate sponsored by The Idaho Spokesman-Review.

Williams called Chenoweth’s comments on tribal sovereignty “unbelievable.”

“The only special rights at issue here are rights conferred by treaty,” he said.

Williams, a 34-year-old Boise attorney, is trying to unseat Chenoweth, a 58-year-old freshman and former political consultant who ousted Democrat Larry LaRocco in 1994.

Before an audience of 90, the two candidates sparred over issues as diverse as assault weapons, campaign contributors and the United Nations.

Williams stung Chenoweth with repeated questions about her troubled campaign finances, while she attacked his positions on education and abortion.

Confronting Williams directly, Chenoweth asked why he didn’t support a ban on partial-birth abortions.

Williams cited a case in which he said a woman faced certain sterility if she delivered a baby who was found to have serious birth defects. The baby would not have lived more than a day, Williams said.

“I simply don’t believe the heavy hand of the federal government should be involved in that situation.”

Responded Chenoweth: “Many children who’ve had birth defects have been brought into this world and have brought joy to their family. I know, because I have a grandchild that has a defect and is disabled, and I am so glad he’s part of our life, and I love him tremendously.”

The debate pitted Chenoweth’s passionate, sometimes meandering commentary against Williams’ precise, more polished delivery.

Williams touched a nerve when he questioned Chenoweth’s failure to disclose the names of contributors who gave her less than $200.

Chenoweth responded that union members, teachers and Democrats were on that list, and she wasn’t going to break a promise not to share their names.

Chenoweth offered a new explanation for her failure to disclose a $50,000 loan from a former client.

“I did exactly what the law required,” she said. “When I found out that my people had not disclosed that loan as I had instructed them, I did it myself.”

Last month, Chenoweth first called the lapse an unexplained oversight. The next day, she said she had misunderstood requirements for reporting mortgage loans.

During the debate, Chenoweth touted her sponsorship of one of the 10 planks of the Republican Contract with America: tort reform.

When Williams charged that the Contract with America has largely failed, much of the audience looked surprised, some saying “Failed?” to each other.

Williams also caused groans when he suggested the federal government doesn’t have much influence on education.

Chenoweth said it was time the United States pulled out of the United Nations. She called it the “most inefficient, grossly mismanaged organization that we’re attached to.”

Williams disagreed. “The United Nations is the only current vehicle available for us to solve any disputes arising between the countries of the world,” he said.

Asked if he thought there was a move afoot to create a New World Order, Williams chuckled.

“There may be some pockets of the world where people believe in one-world government,” he said.”I think we prey on people’s fears and certain mythology when we talk about those things.”

Chenoweth said that while she hadn’t seen a New World Order, she recalled President George Bush discussing it.

“I think we shouldn’t bury our head in the sand,” she said.

Both candidates said the race is about trust and tried to paint themselves as friends to working class Idahoans.

Both disapprove of the assault weapons ban and President Clinton’s designation of a national monument in Utah’s canyonlands.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos

MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Craig Welch and Betsy Z. Russell Staff writers Staff writer Ken Olsen contributed to this report.

Cut in the Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Craig Welch and Betsy Z. Russell Staff writers Staff writer Ken Olsen contributed to this report.

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