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Debate fires up Senate race

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POSTED: November 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Saxby Chambliss

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ATLANTA — The political ad war blanketing the Georgia airwaves spilled over into a U.S. Senate debate Friday night as the two major party candidates sparred over the bruising attacks face to face.
With a little more than a week to go before the election Nov. 4, the Georgia Senate contest has grown increasingly harsh amid signs that the race is tightening.
Democrat Jim Martin assailed Republican Saxby Chambliss for a spot suggesting he was responsible for the death of children in state care when he headed up the Georgia agency overseeing social services programs.
“This is a personal attack on me. It’s inaccurate,” Martin said, suggesting the techniques were similar to the ones Chambliss used six years ago against in a bitter race against Sen. Max Cleland.
Chambliss defended the spot as a statement on Martin’s leadership. Asked if Martin was to blame for the deaths, Chambliss replied “absolutely not.”
“But it’s an issue of leadership. What happened was a terrible tragedy and it happened under his watch,” the Moultrie Republican shot back.
Chambliss countered that Martin should prevail upon leaders of his party in Washington to stop running a pair of new ads he says misrepresent the “fair tax,” which he supports. The plan would create a national sales tax and erase the income tax.
“He can say I deplore this,” Chambliss said. “It’s wrong. It’s misleading and I would ask that he do that.”
Martin demurred saying that under federal election law he cannot coordinate activities with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is spending more than $500,000 to air the spots in Georgia. He said the spots are “factually accurate” but said the outside spots take the attention off faulty “Saxby economics” that have helped contribute to the nation’s financial woes.
Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley called the bickering “sad.”
“I’d like to stick to the issues,” he said.
Buckley returned to his signature issue: reining in out-of-control spending. He said entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security must be cut to keep the nation’s economy afloat.
“You’re destroying the future of my kids and it’s wrong,” Buckley scolded Chambliss.
Martin and Chambliss took opportunities to distance themselves from their respective party leaders as they seek out moderate and independent voters.
Chambliss said he has disagreed with President Bush on the Farm Bill and came to part ways with him on an immigration measure.
“When the president’s wrong on something I’m against him,” Chambliss said.
Martin said he doesn’t agree with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s comment that tax cuts for the wealthy would redistribute wealth.
“I don’t agree with the concept of using the tax code to spread the wealth,” the Atlanta Democrat said.
Friday’s debate took place at WAGA-TV in Atlanta. It will be aired on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
There is one more debate left before the election. Both Chambliss and Martin are traveling in bus tours in the coming days as they work to get out the vote.
 

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