Taylor, Palazzo square off in first and only debate

Republican Steven Palazzo, Democrat Gene Taylor
Republican Steven Palazzo, Democrat Gene Taylor

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Three days before the election, Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor and his Republican challenger, Steven Palazzo, squared off in their only debate. It was held in a closed studio at WKFK in Pascagoula, with the questions supplied by viewers.

The evening began with the candidates receiving instructions on the debate format, and flip of the coin to decide the order. Then the disagreement began.

Health care reform was a source of contention.

"As a state legislator, I did more than our current congressman to protect Mississippians and small businesses from this unconstitutional, job destroying, tax increasing bill," Palazzo said.

"Actions talk louder than words," Taylor fired back. "The bottom line is I bucked my own president, my own party's leadership and voted against this bill. I was the first Democrat to sign the discharge petition. I was the first Democrat to say I would vote for its repeal."

Both men disagreed about the future direction of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding with Palazzo criticizing Taylor about the use of nuclear ships.

"There are also some things that our congressman has said pretty recklessly," Palazzo said.  "He's recommended going to an all nuclear fleet.  Northrop Grumman does not have the capacity or overhead to actually go nuclear."

But Taylor says he's been a champion for the shipyard.

"For over 20 years, I've been that shipyard's salesman in the House of Representatives," Taylor said. "I've brought $45 billion worth of work to that shipyard, because they do great work."

The congressman criticized his challenger for trying to cut the state retirement fund.

"And you sat up there and figured out ways to cut the people who are the most productive, the people who were the heroes after Katrina, that's the first responders," Taylor said.

Palazzo shot back, saying he was protecting a fund that was in danger of going broke.

"And it's my job to stabilize it and shore it up so our public employees will have income that they were promised and the income that they paid into it over their lifetime," Palazzo said.

The two men disagreed on the direction of the War on Terror, with Palazzo cautious about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

"I want our troops home as fast as possible, but it doesn't need to be the politicians in Washington, D.C. We need to listen to generals on the ground and commanders because they know best. And I want to keep this fight in their backyard and not in my backyard," Palazzo said.

But Taylor was more critical of the war effort.

"And if Karzai, whose brother is the biggest dope dealer in Afghanistan, can't clean up his government, then it's time to do our job. Tell them to do their job, and come home," Taylor said.

Both men touched on other subjects, including insurance and tax cuts, during the hour long debate.

Two other candidates are also vying for the seat held by Taylor.  They are Libertarian Party candidate Tim Hampton, and Ana Jewel Reviews of the Reform Party. Neither was invited to take part in Friday night's debate.

The election is Tuesday, November 2, with polls open from 7am until 7pm. Of course, WLOX News will have complete election coverage, both on television, and on WLOX.COM.

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