Boozman, Lincoln face off for first debate

Republican Senate hopeful John Boozman said Arkansas “can’t afford” Blanche Lincoln anymore, while the Democratic incumbent accused Boozman of putting politics above the state’s needs as the two debated on Friday for the first time in their election matchup.

Boozman and Lincoln sparred over Social Security, taxes and earmarks during the debate hosted by Talk Business and Little Rock television station KLRT. Lincoln, who is seeking a third term, is trailing Boozman in most polls and is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents seeking re-election.

“Sen. Lincoln is a good friend and I admire her, yet we can’t afford her anymore,” Boozman, a congressman representing northwest Arkansas, said.

Lincoln criticized Boozman for supporting House Republicans’ moratorium on earmarks and said that his opposition to money for local projects is harming his congressional district.

“The fact is he signed with his party above his state and his district,” Lincoln said.

The two disagreed over the tax cuts that were instituted under former President George W. Bush, with Lincoln calling for extending the cuts for low to moderate income taxpayers. Lincoln, however, said that extending the tax cuts for the wealthy should only be done if it can be paid for.

“The ultrawealthy, I do not think should receive that tax cut unless it is paid for in a responsible way, and that’s an important thing we have to do,” Lincoln said.

Boozman he supports extending all of the tax cuts and said that not extending them for the higher income taxpayers would hurt small business owners.

“The last thing we need to do in this economy is raise expenses on small businesses, especially on small businesses that are making money,” Boozman said. “That makes no sense at all.”

Lincoln also criticized Boozman’s past support of allowing workers to invest their Social Security taxes in private accounts, saying it would privatize the system and hurt retirees. She also criticized Boozman for co-sponsoring legislation that would replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.

“The 23 percent sales tax is just a bad idea for Arkansans,” Lincoln said. “It is replacing your federal income tax with a 23 percent consumption tax on anything you purchase, anything from your bread to your tires to your home to your car.”

Boozman defended his position on Social Security and said that private accounts should be looked at as an option. Boozman said that he’s open to the idea of the national sales tax and said it would simplify taxes for Americans.

“I think it’s something that needs to be looked at. I would love to get rid of the IRS,” Boozman said.

At one point in the debate, Boozman and Lincoln were allowed to pose each other questions. Boozman asked Lincoln to defend her vote for the federal health care overhaul.

Lincoln said she worked to make sure the overhaul didn’t include a government-run insurance option and helped small businesses.

“Where there are places to correct in this bill, I will work hard to make it better. The fact is I’m hearing from Arkansans that there were a lot of things we needed to do and I think this got us started,” Lincoln said.

Boozman said he voted against the overhaul because he heard overwhelming opposition from Arkansans to the legislation.

“Something needs to be done, but the idea that we’ve got to do something and that’s the solution is what I think is wrong with government,” Boozman said.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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