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Congressional Candidates Debate Domestic Issues

The economy, rising energy prices and health care dominated a debate last night among candidates in one of the hottest and closest Congressional races in the country. The two men and woman looking to replace Congresswoman Deborah Pryce agreed some and disagreed some in the hour-long televised forum.

Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy Republican Steve Stivers and Independent Don Elijah Eckhart sat side by side at Ohio State University's Fawcett Center. Domestic issues dominated the debate sponsored by the AARP and Channel 4. Foreign policy did not even come up.

Kilroy who nearly won the seat two years ago touted her experience as Franklin County Commissioner and frequently wove in references to her mom, her dad and her daughters.

I've worked for the average person in my district my entire career.

Stivers, a state senator and Iraq war vet filled each 90 second response allotment with bullet point policy proposals and repeatedly stressed bi-partisanship.

I've worked with republican and democrats to get things done like promoting economic cutting property tax and improving health care

Eckhart a socially conservative candidate from touted his faith and anti-abortion stance.

I am the only pro life candidate sitting at this table. And by pro-life I mean womb to tomb.

To create jobs in Ohio every candidate talked of increasing worker training, lowering health insurance costs and trying to create a clean energy industry in Ohio Both agreed that trade rules need better enforcement. Stivers took the opportunity to separate himself from President Bush.

Cut Our President and our Congress have done a terrible job enforcing our trade laws and we've seen dumping and illegal trade and we need to enforce our trade laws. .

Kilroy said some trade agreements need to be re-negotiated.

In order to make sure our labor standards and our environmental standards to make sure we are trading at an equal standard with the rest of the world so that we are not at a disadvantage, she said.

On healthcare, Stivers said he supported allowing people to import prescription drugs from Canada and creating a pool so people with chronic conditions can get affordable health care. Kilroy said the system needs to focus on prevention and change the Medicaid reimbursement system so seniors are not forced to enter a nursing home.

With Gas prices creeping to 4 dollars again, energy independence was a key point All the candidates touted using more wind and solar power. Stivers pushed for more off shore drilling and increased gasoline refining capacity.

We haven't built a refinery in this country since 1976. Anyone who has filled a tank up this week as seen a spike cause by hurricane Ike of 30 - 40 cents.. we need to build refineries, Stivers said.

Kilroy said she supports only drilling that does not hurt the environment. Kilroy also promised to work for an ambitious overhaul of the auto industry.

We need a real committment so that by 2020 every car made in America should be using alternative sources of energy, said Kilroy.

On Social Security, little separated Stivers and Kilroy. They both oppose privatizing any portion of it and they said the federal government should stop raiding the Social Security Trust fund. Eckhart said he supported raising the income threshold to qualify for social security.

The debate featured only a few minor contentious moments. On a handful of occasions Kilroy would criticize Stivers directly. Stivers did not engage Kilroy until the end when he took a swipe at negative ads being run against him

As is often the case in three person debates, the independent, Eckhart got off the best lines. I'm the only candidate up here that has not raised your taxes, but I'm the only candidate here who has not held elected office, Eckhart mused.

The three candidates are scheduled to debate twice more including a debate Sponsored by WOSU and the Columbus Metropolitan Club next month.

Mike Thompson, WOSU News.

Mike Thompson spends much of his time correcting people who mispronounce the name of his hometown – Worcester, Massachusetts. Mike studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University when he was not running in circles – as a distance runner on the SU track team.