Sparks fly at Louisiana's final gubernatorial debate

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Personal attacks and digs kicked off Louisiana's final gubernatorial debate Monday between David Vitter and John Bel Edwards.

"I will say this to you senator. You're a hypocrite." Democratic candidate Edwards said.

"John Bel you can throw every ugly insult you want my way. I'm perfectly comfortable with who I am," Republican candidate Vitter responded.

Several times during the debate in Baton Rouge the candidates shouted over the moderators and each other to get their message across. The debate started with a discussion on the 14 Syrian refugees in Louisiana and whether more should be allowed to resettle in the state. Both candidates took the same position as current Gov. Bobby Jindal and believe the refugees fleeing terrorism in their own country should not be allowed to enter Louisiana.

Once Vitter and Edwards agreed on the refugees, the pair went on the attack again.

"This election is about our future," Vitter said. "It's between two candidates with vastly different records, a Louisiana conservative versus a pro-Obama liberal. That's the choice."

At least twice, Edwards brought up Vitter's past scandal and even snapped at the senator when it was pointed out that Edwards was given a failing grade by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

"I give 100 percent to my wife...senator you ought to try," Bel Edwards said.

Edwards and Vitter did get to the issues during the debate. With the half-billion-dollar budget shortfall the state faces, both men say they will not raise taxes, but they have a different approach to fix the deficit.

"We will focus on those tax giveaways, those tax credits, those tax exemptions that cost too much money and don't produce enough return on investment," Edwards said. "We will reduce those, create savings and reallocate those savings to higher priority items, like health care and higher education."

"I'm going to start with real budget reform and on the spending side. This is a fundamental difference between us," Vitter said. "I'll take a balanced approach, but I'll start with budget reform on the spending side by un-dedicating those other areas of the budget that are off limits now."
Both candidates also differ on the direction of the TOPS program.

"I believe in common sense reforms as passed in the legislature this past year. Governor Jindal vetoed those," Vitter said. "I would sign them into law to preserve TOPS well into the future. We have to stop death by 1000 cuts in higher education."

"I'm committed to stopping these tuition increases because they are pricing our kids out of higher education. They're making sure our kids don't have the opportunity that they deserve to live the American dream right here in Louisiana," Edwards said.

FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said Saturday's vote should be interesting to see whether voters choose personal matters over political stances.

"So the curious question to most viewers who have a position in mind is who are these undecided and what additional piece of information are they waiting for?," Sherman said. "The big questions to pollsters is, is that missing piece of information on a policy or personality?"

During the debate the candidates also talked about their differences on the minimum wage issue. Edwards supports a minimum wage increase to $8.50.  
Vitter believes minimum wage should stay at $7.25 and said more people should use trade school to accelerate their careers.

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