TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Two 2nd District congressional candidates took their war of words live Wednesday night, clashing in a televised debate over education, abortion and the venomous ads being aired on behalf of both.
Democrat Brad Carson challenged Republican Andy Ewing to withdraw all negative television ads, saying ``I will change the tone of this election'' and do the same.
Ewing accused Carson of starting the mudslinging but said neither he nor Carson could prevent national parties from airing the attack ads, which have drawn complaints from some eastern Oklahoma voters. Ewing said Carson could withdraw ads paid for by his own campaign.
``If he wanted to do what is right, he could,'' Ewing said.
Each candidate had 90 seconds to respond to questions that came from constituents videotaped in Claremore and Muskogee, e-mails and moderators Karen Larsen and John Walls. There was no rebuttal.
Each candidate stood stiffly behind a podium and showed little reaction during his opponent's response, despite contesting the other's views at times.
Ewing, 62, opened the debate, confessing ``I'm not a smooth talker.'' He said he was proud of the reputation he had built in 29 years as a Muskogee car dealer and described himself as a lifelong conservative and family man.
Carson, 33, who has been criticized by his opponent for living in the district a short time, emphasized six generations of family ties to the district. The Claremore lawyer said his family came to Adair County on the Trail of Tears.
``I don't want to bring the values of Washington D.C. to Oklahoma,'' Carson said. ``I want to take the traditional small-town values of Oklahoma to Washington.''
Carson championed putting computers in every school classroom, ensuring schools had certified teachers and said he opposed vouchers. He drew a distinction with Ewing on education, saying his opponent favored school consolidation.
``That's just a fancy word for closing schools,'' Carson said.
Ewing said he never endorsed closing schools and called Carson's portrayal ``an out and out lie.'' He said he supported the concept of school vouchers, noting that private schools are successful because they're free of federal government interference.
``We need to be putting the decisions back in the hands of the local school boards, our teachers and parents,'' he said.
Ewing called the abortion issue ``one of the major differences'' between the candidates, saying he opposed abortion except when the mother's life was threatened and that Carson had gone on record saying he would not oppose the overturn of Roe vs. Wade.
Carson countered that he was personally opposed to abortion and would fight to end partial birth abortions. But he said he believed a woman who was a victim of rape or incest should have the right to decide for herself.
Both candidates emphasized their support for a prescription drug plan for seniors, protecting Social Security, ensuring military funding and ending the marriage tax penalty. They also both said they support the right to bear arms.
The candidates split on term limits, with Ewing emphasizing that he would follow outgoing Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in keeping a pledge to serve only three terms.
Carson said he believes in terms limits but only if all states impose them.
``For Oklahoma to have term limits alone when no other state does is to make sure we never have a representative like Carl Albert, who was speaker of the House, or Robert Kerr, who brought us these great waterways ...,'' he said.
Ewing accused Carson of ``using some slick talking'' by implying that his support of a proposal to sell federal land around lakes would do away with public hunting lands. He said his plan excludes public hunting lands. ``I've never said I want to close down public hunting lands,'' Ewing said. ``This again is where my opponent is making these statements to twist words around to his advantage. That is a lie and it is not right.''
The debate is the last scheduled face-to-face meeting for the candidates before the Nov. 7 election. They face Libertarian Neil Mavis in seeking to succeed Coburn.