WEST HARTFORD – Republican congressional contender Joe Visconti came out swinging in a one-hour debate Thursday with the 1st District’s long-time incumbent, Democrat John Larson.
Visconti, a West Hartford town councilor, said the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill that Larson backed recently “a major mistake” that undermines the Constitution with its heavy government intrusion into the private sector.
“It’s what had to be done,” Larson responded, in order to ensure that companies large and small could access the credit they need to function.
At the debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Hartford at West Hartford’s town hall, the two men took aim at each other on issues ranging from the war to bridge repairs.
They both agreed, however, that Green Party challenger Stephen Fournier of Hartford should have been included in the televised showdown.
“He deserves a voice,” said Larson, who hails from East Hartford and whose district includes Bristol.
Visconti said the nation is “on the eve” of an economic collapse that “may be even worse” than the Great Depression that tossed a quarter of the country’s workers onto the unemployment rolls.
The solution, he said, is to pare back on government and return more money to taxpayers so they can afford health care, investments and more.
“The federal government needs to get off our backs,” Visconti said.
Larson said the country has “to put people back to work,” in part with a Apollo-style program to create alternative energy sources that would end the nation’s dependency on oil from the Middle East.
“It’s not ‘drill, baby, drill,’” Larson said. “It’s jobs, baby, jobs.”
“We need a bailout for the taxpayers,” Visconti said.
Larson said the middle class is getting squeezed and deserves a break to help compensate for shrinking income and rising costs.
While Larson called for “ a strategic redeployment” of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and a new focus on diplomacy, Visconti said that Americans need to keep in mind that “we are in a holy war with extreme Islam.”
Visconti said that Islamic extremists are focused on destroying Israel and targeting America.
Larson said that the United States needs to go in “a new direction for the sake of our troops and for the sake of our nation.”
Not every issue carried global ramifications.
Both candidates, for example, said that AT&T’s television service should be required to provide channels for public access.
Visconti said the company wants “to relegate public access to the recycle bin” by putting all of Connecticut’s public access stations on a single channel with a pull-down menu required to pick one.
The election is Nov. 4.
Contact Steve Collins at email@example.com