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Politics & Government

First US Senate debate held in Bismarck

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

The two candidates for US Senate squared off in their first debate Thursday night.

Incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and GOP challenger Kevin Cramer participated in an hour-long debate in Bismarck, sponsored by the North Dakota Newspaper Association.

The two covered a number of subjects. On trade – specifically the trade embargoes – Heitkamp said North Dakota farmers are getting hurt by the closing of foreign markets, especially China.

"They (the tariffs) are so wrong for North Dakota," Heitkamp said. "We spent 30 years building a market -- we're going to lose it in a year."

Cramer said once tariffs were imposed, he pushed for a mitigation plan to help farmers get through. He said when President Trump picked the tools he's going to use in trade, we need to stand by him -- not with China, Mexico or Canada.

"The best way to end a trade war quickly is to be unified on our side, not on the other side," Cramer said.

On the issue of restoring bipartisanship in Congress, Heitkamp said you accomplish that by listening to the other side, and taking the best ideas from both sides.

"I think the future has to be with people who are moderate," Heitkamp said. "People who are not going like Congressman Cramer, 100 percent of the time with one party."

Heitkamp has been saying she’s voted with President Trump more than half the time. But Cramer shot back that while the numbers may be true, it does not reflect the big issues.

"Donald Trump stands with North Dakota more often than Heidi Heitkamp stands with North Dakota," Cramer said. "He's on the right side of North Dakota."

On the potential for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Heitkamp chided Cramer for saying that statements by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about cutting both programs were “courageous,” and for saying that he doesn't agree with President Trump's promise to '"not change Social Security or Medicare."

"How can our seniors trust that you are going to protect (Social Security and Medicare) when you are going to support individuals like McConnell and (House Speaker) Paul Ryan, who will cut our Social Security and Medicare," Heitkamp said.

"Says the woman who supports (Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer," Cramer replied. "I am not afraid to confess out loud that if we don't deal with Medicare and Social Security, it won't be there for our seniors."

The two also sparred over the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, and criticized each other for some of the campaign ads – Cramer blasting the ad saying he raised his own pay, and Heitkamp criticizing the ads claiming she wasn’t backing veterans.

The two will debate again next week Friday in Fargo.

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