Experience issue raised in debate for U.S. Senate

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Republican Sen. Kit Bond and Democratic challenger Nancy Farmer clashed Tuesday night about their experience and issues including highway repairs and battling methamphetamine.

Bond, a former two-term governor, said his record, including delivering millions in federal money to Missouri over 18 years in Washington, justified a fourth term.

"Experience matters," the incumbent declared on a stage at the University of Missouri-Columbia in the only televised debate between Bond and Farmer. Bond unabashedly linked himself to President Bush: "We are safer and the world is safer because we supported the president."

Farmer, the one-term state treasurer and a former state representative, said Bond has delivered federal pork but hasn't focused on the needs of working people.

"There's a difference between working for Missouri and working for Missourians," Farmer said as she stood next to Bond and two third-party candidates. "We have a senator from Missouri. What we need is a senator for Missouri."

Bond and Farmer criticized one another in their opening statements and kept it up during the 90-minute, televised debate:

Despite Bond's long tenure and chairmanship of a key transportation panel, Missouri still doesn't receive $1 back for highways for each $1 it sends to Washington, with several cents taken by northeastern states, Farmer said. Bond replied that when he arrived in the Senate, Missouri was receiving just 77 cents back for every dollar for transportation programs -- and that he has steadily boosted Missouri's return.

Bond took credit for sending millions to help Missouri raid and clean up meth labs. He said law enforcement "turned to me" because they weren't getting enough help from federal and state governments. But Farmer said Missouri continues to lead the nation in meth lab busts -- more than 2,000 last year -- indicating the problem isn't declining. "We're not getting the job done," Farmer said, adding that she wanted more funding for community policing that Bond voted to reduce.

Farmer called for allowing imports of prescription drugs from Canada to combat soaring U.S. prescription prices -- and said Bond wasn't working for that, because he accepted campaign contributions from drug manufacturers profiting by discouraging imports. Bond said he has voted to allow drug imports, so long as federal regulators are convinced the medicines are safe.

While Missourinet and public radio stations around Missouri were carrying the debate live, organizers said the only scheduled live TV coverage was on KOMU, with viewership limited to central Missouri. C-SPAN was airing the debate later Tuesday to cable television households nationally.

Also participating were Libertarian Kevin Tull and Don Griffin of the Constitution Party, who agreed on many issues, returning to philosophical arguments that the federal government is too big and has overstepped its constitutional boundaries.

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