There were no shortage of political and personal swipes as Republican Rep. Dan Lungren and Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera took the stage for the first and only scheduled debate of one of the nation's most competitive congressional contests.
The rivals for Sacramento County's 7th Congressional District traded jabs on a variety of issues, including job creation, health care and immigration, during the hourlong debate at the News10 studios in Sacramento.
Some of the most heated exchanges, however, occured during the back-and-forth over both parties' plans for Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors. Both candidates accused the other of backing changes to the program that would lead to reduced access and higher costs for the region's seniors.
The debate also got personal at times, as Bera pressed Lungren on whether he is leading by example on cutting spending, citing public pensions he has earned during his time in state and federal office.
Lungren countered by pointing out that he won't receive a federal pension until he leaves office and detailing cuts to U.S. House of Representatives budgets he has overseen as a committee chairman. He also accused Bera of going back on a promise to to run a campaign that focused on issues, not attacks on character and personal integrity.
Both candidates also made overtures to the independent and swing voters who are likely to determine the outcome of the election in the district, which is virtually evenly split between Democats and Republicans.
Lungren spoke of his work across the aisle on gun control and other issues over his long career in Congress, while Bera took several stances that put him at odds with many in his party, including reversing his 2010 position in support of federal funding for high-speed rail.
Tuesday marked the first formal debate for the candidates, who also competed in 2010. Lungren won that race by seven percentage points, though the recent congressional map redrawing has made the district more competitive for this election.
The 3 p.m. debate, sponsored by The Sacramento Bee, Capital Public Radio and News10, was webcast on sacbee.com/live and the co-sponsors' websites. News10 and Capital Public Radio both plan to replay the debate Tuesday morning.