KLAS-TV hosted the only statewide televised U.S. Senate debate Friday night between incumbent U.S. Republican Senator Dean Heller and U.S. Democratic Representative Jacky Rosen.
The one-hour debate took place at the KLAS-TV studios and aired on Channel 8 at 6 p.m. in Las Vegas. The debate was watched by a focus group of undecided voters whose reactions to the candidates’ answers was measured during the debate.
Heller and Rosen traded barbs, interrupted and accused each of being untruthful as they met in their first and only debate in their close U.S. Senate contest in the battleground state.
During the debate, a variety of topics ranging from healthcare, gun violence, and immigration to tax reform, earmarks, and public land were up for discussion.
When it came to immigration reform, the candidates had contradicting opinions, but they both believed agreed that children should not be separated from their families. When asked what should be done for children detained and separated at the border Sen. Heller said, “When it came to separating families, I was the first when it came to writing a letter to the Obama admin.”
Heller says he thinks it’s wrong to separate families. He also accused Rosen of making a visit to see separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border to stage a “photo-op.”
Congressman Rosen said, “I’ve been part of a bipartisan act called the USA Act, that actually provides border security and protects DREAMERS.” “We need to stop this reckless family separation at the border.”
A focus group of undecided voters watching along with the debate charted their reactions to the candidates’ answers using handheld dials. Each dial registered voters’ reactions to the candidates’ answers – zero stands for the most unfavorable response, with 100 being the most favorable response.
The focus group held close to party lines during the candidates’ statements on border control, but the independents swayed as Heller and Rosen made their points.
When it came to healthcare and fixing skyrocketing costs in the future, Rosen said, “Healthcare is the most important thing we can think of. If you don’t have your health you don’t have anything, so the first thing we can do is really stabilize those cost-sharing reductions…” “I’ve introduced legislation that will cap prescription drug prices at $250 a person or $500 a family.” “We need to be sure, number one, that we protect those pre-existing conditions.”Heller also said, “Pre-existing conditions should be part of any health care bill. Children under the age of 26 should make sure that they’re part of their parents’ insurance program, and finally, we have to make sure that expanded Medicaid is protected in the state of Nevada.”
He also said he said he wrote the repeal and replace bill.
When it came to the topic of tax reform, the middle-class tax cuts, the corporation tax cuts and things they could do to fix the tax plan Congresswoman Rosen said, “What we need to do is make this tax plan simpler and fairer. Corporations need to pay their fair share. You know that Sen. Heller, he bragged about writing a tax plan. In that tax plan is a full deduction for a corporate jet. I don’t know too many regular people who own a corporate jet. Maybe we can find some savings in that line right there, Senator. “So what we need to do is be sure that we close those loopholes for hedge fund managers; breaks for big oil and big pharmacy; the major donors to Sen. Heller’s campaign.”
She went on to say, “The tax plan that I voted for; that I broke from my party for, gave the middle class a permanent tax cut. So let’s be clear I kept my promise to middle-class families here in Nevada, while Sen. Heller’s worried about corporate jet owners.”
Congresswoman Rosen also described Heller as a “rubber-stamp” for President Donald Trump whose tax plan benefits the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class.
On the topic of taxes and making the middle-class tax cut permanent Sen. Heller said, “Of course I would. In fact, I wrote the original plan, the Tax Cuts, and Jobs Act. Let me assure you, there is a reason why the Chamber of Commerces all across the state of Nevada, and unions both public and private are endorsing my campaign. There’s a reason that they’re doing this beacause we’re creating jobs. Look at the stadium here downtown. Take a look at the expansion. We’re also expanding the convention center.” “Everybody here in the state of Nevada has more money in their wallet today. Their paychecks are higher. They have more money in their pocket, and their pensions are higher all because of the bill that I authored: The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act.”
The candidates also sparred over veteran affairs, Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections and climate change to name a few.
The race for the seat has received national attention as the Nevada election could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
Heller is considered the most vulnerable Republican senator running for re-election this year because he’s the only one running in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won.
Democrats hoping a backlash to President Donald Trump will propel their base to the polls and carry Rosen to victory in battleground Nevada.