LOVELAND, Colo. — A Colorado congresswoman considered among the most vulnerable of the House Democrats came out swinging against her Republican challenger in their first debate Tuesday.
Rep. Betsy Markey questioned Republican Cory Gardner's honesty and defended her support of the stimulus package and the health care overhaul.
The embattled Democrat was booed at times as she challenged Gardner, a state lawmaker. Markey pointed out a Gardner campaign ad in which her voting record was misrepresented and asked whether Gardner could be trusted.
"Did you deliberately lie, or was that a mistake?" Markey said to Gardner, talking about the ad in which a vote attributed to Markey was actually that of another congressman, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
After a Gardner remark about what he called out-of-control government spending, Markey countered, "I don't need to be lectured by someone who actually wants to tax the wind."
She was referring to a bill sponsored by Gardner in the state Legislature that legislative analysts said could have opened the door for wind-rights taxation. Gardner insisted the measure would not have raised taxes; the bill didn't pass.
Gardner spent most of the debate chiding Markey and ruling Democrats for what he called out-of-control spending. He elicited some of the loudest cheers of the evening when he laid into Markey's vote for the pricey stimulus package.
"You want a shovel-ready project we don't need? It's digging more debt," Gardner said.
Markey defended her votes in favor of the stimulus and the health care overhaul, though her answers were at times inaudible over boos at the debate sponsored by Northern Colorado 5, a Fort Collins-based CBS affiliate.
Markey argued that she has stood up to her party on spending and several times reminded voters that she once owned a small business. She pointed out at least twice that she voted against the first budget by President Barack Obama.
"I have held the line on debt issues," she said.
When Markey was elected in 2008, she was the first Democrat sent to Congress from this northern Colorado district in more than three decades, and Republicans still outnumber Democrats here.
Also at the debate were two minor-party candidates, Doug Aden and Ken "Wasko" Waszkiewicz. The four meet again for one more forum later this week.