Rochester, MinnesotaÂ hosted a debate between Robert Fitzgerald (I), Mark Kennedy (R) and Amy Klobuchar (D)Â on Thursday, November 2. Although most of the arguments were the same ones we've been hearing throughout this campaign season, Mark Kennedy tried something new. Seizing upon John Kerry's recent gaffe while addressing students in California, Kennedy attempted to pin Kerry's unfortunate choice of words on Amy Klobuchar saying, "You should disassociate yourself with John Kerry."
Â KlobucharÂ maturely noted thatÂ the people of Minnesota are beyond the Bush / Kerry fight, andÂ Fitzgerald said that Kennedy and the Republicans are simply using the Kerry incident to turn voters' attention away from their own voting records.
Â One issue that came up for the first time during the senatorialÂ debates was abortion. Kennedy refers to himself as "100% pro-life" and tied abortion to stem cell research during the debate saying, "I do not support taking one form of life for the potential benefit of another." Â Klobuchar said abortion is "a personal decision between a woman and her doctor." Fitzgerald nailed the larger issue, however, when he stated, "Only zealots believe that passing legislation is going to reduce the number of abortions." Fitzgerald's official stance on abortionÂ is as follows: "Reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies leads to fewer abortions. I support adoption agencies, reproductive education, and availability to contraception. Restrictive legislation does not lead to fewer abortions."
Kennedy's hard core pro-life constituents were no doubt pleased with his support of President Bush's veto of H.R. 810 The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, but the Republican party in general is split on the issue. Klobuchar said, "This [Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act] was a bill that would have made sure that we didn't have cloning. It would have outlawed profiteering. It would have had the kind of measures we want in place to make sure that this was done in an ethical way. I come down on the side of a cure and I support stem cell research." Robert Fitzgerald would also vote in favor of federal funding of stem cell research.
Desperate measures, diversions and abortion aside, the main focus of the debate was, predictably, Iraq. All three candidates take different positions regarding U.S. troop withdrawal. While Fitzgerald believes the U.S. should bring the troops home immediately, Klobuchar favors a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops and on her website says, "By making clear that we will not be staying in Iraq indefinitely, we will jumpstart our diplomatic efforts to involve other countries." Kennedy has been a strong supporter of the war in Iraq and, like President Bush, doesn't talk about bringing any troops home any time soon. He maintains thatÂ we can win the war operationally on the ground.
With only one more debate scheduled, what is left for Kennedy, Klobuchar and Fitzgerald to discuss? Will Kennedy repeat his refutable lies about Klobuchar or will he offer information about his own legislative record? Will Klobuchar have the chance to convey detailed hopes and plans for Minnesota or will she once again have to waste time explaining to Kennedy how he misrepresents (or misunderstands) her positions? And what about Bob? Will we hear more of Fitzgerald's sensible one-liners or will he spend his air-time introducing himself â€“ again?
Tune in Sunday night, November 5 as Minnesota Public Radio sponsors the final senatorial debate from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.