By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN Associated Press
TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) _ The candidates in the state’s most closely watched congressional race clashed Tuesday over expiring tax cuts and an oil pipeline in their first debate.
Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback said at the debate in Torrington that he favors extending the Bush-era tax cuts for a year for everyone while the tax code is reformed. He said raising taxes would hurt small businesses.
Democratic former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty said she wants to extend the cuts for the middle class. She said Republicans want lower taxes for the wealthy but offer no specifics on spending.
“We’ve seen this before,” Esty said. “It didn’t work under Bush, and it won’t work now. That is why I oppose it.”
Roraback endorsed the Keystone XL pipeline proposal to transport crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, saying it would create 4,000 jobs.
“I think the Keystone pipeline is something this country can’t afford not to have,” Roraback said.
Esty said the project would contribute to climate change and the oil likely would go overseas.
“It is an environmental disaster,” she said.
The 5th district seat, in a largely bipartisan area of northwestern Connecticut, is held by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who’s running for U.S. Senate. It’s one of only two U.S. House seats in New England where an incumbent is not running for re-election.
National Democrats have spent nearly $800,000 on television ads in the race. The National Republican Campaign Committee has spent about $90,000 to support Roraback, who has lagged behind Esty in fundraising. National Republicans also brought in House Speaker John Boehner to headline a Roraback fundraiser last week in Hartford.
Roraback called himself a fiscally prudent socially moderate independent lawmaker, saying he would not support efforts to privatize Medicare because health care costs would exceed vouchers. But Esty repeatedly tried to tie him to national Republicans, including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, saying he would vote to put them in leadership positions to enact their agenda.
Roraback criticized the health care law signed by President Barack Obama, saying it will cost $1 trillion over the next decade and leave 30 million people with no health care coverage. Esty expressed support for the law, saying it would allow children to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 and prevents insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Roraback complained about ads run by Esty and national Democrats, saying Esty had loaned her campaign about $500,000 to pay for ads that distort his record. Esty said an out-of-state super political action committee was attacking her and said there is a need for campaign finance reform.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)