It was not Lincoln-Douglas.
But it wasn’t exactly a rumble in the jungle either.
Even so, this week’s debate between two candidates for North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District had its moments.
Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell and Republican challenger Richard Hudson met Tuesday on the campus of Wingate University to square off over issues important to seniors — mainly Medicare and Social Security.
For much of the exchange, Kissell came off as the unruffled promise keeper while Hudson could best be described as the brash young reformer.
Kissell stressed repeatedly that “we should keep our promises” on so-called entitlements.
“I will work with anybody that keeps the promises to our seniors,” Kissell said. “And I will oppose anyone who threatens this promise, whether it’s through privatization or vouchers or restructuring.”
Hudson took a different tact. He said both Social Security and Medicare need to be reformed before the programs run out of money. Hudson said he would not support tweaking the program if it affected those near retirement. Instead, he said younger people should have different options to pick from.
“If we don’t do anything, Social Security is going to go broke by 2036,” Hudson told the debate audience of more than 200. “That’s what the president’s own people tell us.”
Kissell countered with the best line of the day: “We hear about restructuring and all these plans that will cut programs in order to preserve it. Gutting something in order to preserve it — that’s called taxidermy, not public policy.”
Still the 90-minute session did not provide any knockouts, although Kissell did take most of the body blows.
Hudson said he was fed up with Washington politicians like Kissell whose chief concern is staying in office. He also accused Kissell of voting to raid the Social Security trust fund, trying to cut $716 billion from Medicare and voting to support Obamacare — some 23 times.
Only the claim about his support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seemed to illicit a real reaction from Kissell.
“It was eventually passed, but not because I voted for it,” the Biscoe Democrat said.
After the debate, Kissell’s campaign aides sent out an e-mail accusing Hudson of telling lies and being in support of polices that “will gut the safety net provided by Medicare and Social Security.”
But the third-term incumbent mostly ignored Hudson and his claims during the actual debate.
Those waiting for Kissell to take the gloves off were sorely disappointed. When Hudson began criticizing Washington politicians, Kissell could have pointed to Hudson’s own time in Washington as a chief of staff to GOP House members, including former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes. Instead Kissell let that and a lot of other opportunities pass.
While it is hard to say if Hudson won the debate, he did score points.
Perhaps the real winner to emerge from Tuesday’s debate was the public which got a chance to see the candidates talk about issues important to a large segment of the 8th District.
Voters are expected to get a another opportunity next week when Kissell and Hudson debate again in Lumberton.