The second debate between the contenders for the Missouri U.S. Senate seat, Rep. Todd Akin, R.-Mo., and incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., took place Thursday at Clayton High School in Clayton.
Mike Bush, anchor for KSDK/NewsChannel 5, the St. Louis NBC affiliate, moderated the hour-long debate. A five-person panel, made up of representatives from KSDK, St. Louis Public Radio, the St. Louis Business Journal, the Clayton Chamber of Commerce and Clayton High School senior Meredith McMahon asked the candidates questions.
McCaskill focused on her bipartisan and moderate record throughout the debate while framing Akin as an extremist.
“Moderate versus conservative, moderate versus extreme," McCaskill said. "I think there’s a very big choice for Missourians to make."
Akin focused on the failure of the past four years under the current administration and said he has traveled the state and knows the voters want a change.
“Bring me to Washington, D.C., and bring Missouri common sense to Washington, D.C.,” Akin said.
The debate was free of interruptions and kept to strict time constraints with the use of red, yellow and green light bulbs, signaling to the candidates how much time was remaining. Key discussion points included education, taxes and government spending, and the Middle East, along with other domestic issues.
The candidates were also given the opportunity to clear up a misconception about themselves. Akin described the election as one of records, saying he is running for office because the hope of this country is diminishing.
McCaskill tried to clear up the accusations that she agrees with Obama 98 percent of the time.
“I don’t even agree with my mother 98 percent of the time,” she said.
McCaskill again highlighted her bipartisan record, saying she does not care if an idea is Democratic or Republican, because she does the bidding of Missourians, not her party. McCaskill also mentioned that on the ranking of senators released every year, she is ranked 50th: exactly in the middle between liberal and conservative.
McMahon turned the topic to education and the fact that Akin home-schooled his children and McCaskill sent one of hers to a private Catholic school. She questioned their commitment to public education.
Akin strongly supported the freedom to choose what kind of education citizens want. He explained his vote against the No Child Left Behind Act as a lack of faith in the federal government to help education.
McCaskill took the opportunity to list Akin’s record with education. She said he wants to completely rid education of the federal government, meaning no Department of Education, no Pell Grants and no federally funded school lunches for families in need.
“It’s not about bureaucracy but about whether the middle class survives,” McCaskill said.
An audience member brought up stem cell research. Akin said he does not believe in embryonic stem cell use, as he believes life begins at conception.
In closing the final debate of the senate race, McCaskill discussed equality for women in equal work and equal pay. She accused Akin of paying his female employees 23.4 percent less than their male counterparts.
Akin called his opponent a magician, saying she is avoiding the economic and job crisis. He said he hopes to restore American freedoms with his election.