On Monday, two candidates running for a seat in Congress for the First District of Kansas attended a forum held at Emporia State University. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler) and Alan Jilka (D-Salina), addressed issues ranging from health care, the economy, schools and immigration. Libertarian candidate Jack Warner was invited to the forum, but couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict.
Candidates were not given prior notice to exactly what questions were going to be asked at the debate. Questions were selected from students and residents across Kansas. Jilka wasted little time going after Huelskamp and his policies. On several occasions, Jilka would touch on the previous issues that he felt Huelskamp had mistaken.
“(Helskamp) is a man that has been in office for years, and has never had anything pass in terms of legislation,” Jilka said after the debate. “I think there is something to be said for someone that won’t do a debate style forum, which is what we would have liked.”
Jilka also called his opponent a representative on the extremist fringe.
“At some point in time, and I think it’s quite a while ago for him, you cross the line from conservative into extreme and radical,” Jilka said during the debate.
Huelskamp said after the debate that it was an attempt to distract voters from his policies on health care and immigration.
Huelskamp was reserved for much of the evening in his responses and towards the comments made by Jilka. Throughout the contest, Jilka remained aggressive, but wasn‘t always as clear with his words. Huelskamp on the other hand decided to use more of a populist, “We the People” approach to the debate.
“(Jilka) wants to raise taxes in a time where the debt is already $1.8 trillion which is going to fall on the next generation to pay off,”Huelskampsaid during the debate. “This should be very concerning to college students especially.”
According to recent polls, Huelskamp is the favorite to win the election in November.
Economics Professor Rob Catlett helped run the event, and students since the debate have expressed a concern for the aggressive-style attacks by both sides.
“For many students, Monday was the first experience of a political debate at such a high level,” Catlett said. “I think they were surprised by it, but by them being there in person, they could really see some of the issues that come with the seat.”
The First Congressional District is the largest district in the state of Kansas in terms of size. 69 out of the 105 counties in Kansas are included from the Western Kansas border to Lyon County, including Junction City, but not Manhattan or Wichita. All three candidates all won their respective primaries for their parties.
Jilka said that he would have voted for the health care bill, and his plan was to repair the bill, not repeal it. Huelskamp says he would have voted against it saying that the people in Washington didn’t read the bill before it passed.
ASG Senator Luke Chiddix believed after the debate that neither side really took advantage of the forum.
“Because of the style of the forum, it kind of dictated how the candidates spent their time addressing issues,” Chiddix said. “Neither side really brought their ‘A’ game.”
The election is to be held on Tuesday Nov. 2. Advanced balloting can be done before Oct. 15. Anyone interested in watching the debate can watch the taping set to air on KTWU on Oct. 31at 2 p.m.