MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sen. Al Franken and Republican hopeful Mike McFadden met Sunday in what resembled more of a free-for-all than a debate.
The pair’s second face-to-face event often devolved into a shouting match, as the candidates — and two WCCO-TV moderators — interrupted one another to finish a point. At times, the visibly angry candidates clashed over the country’s handling of Ebola, McFadden’s investment banking career and Franken’s ads painting McFadden as a ruthless businessman who caused layoffs.
Their first televised debate marked a change of tone in the race, which has been cool as national Republican groups focus on other states in the attempt to regain control of the Senate.
Franken and McFadden are set to meet Nov. 2 for a final debate. In the meantime, here are some issues over which things got heated Sunday morning:
Franken brought the fight over McFadden’s business background to the debate. The incumbent senator and his Democratic allies have tried to turn McFadden’s career at Lazard Middle Market against him. Most recently, Franken released an ad featuring laid-off workers from a Montana paper mill that was closed, the ad says, after McFadden’s firm restructured the company’s debt.
McFadden’s campaign says a different branch of the parent company was involved in that deal, which Lazard Middle Market’s website featured until Franken’s ad debuted last week.
“You have spent millions of dollars attacking me on the air with patently false ads,” McFadden said. “Minnesotans are so tired of these attacks.”
The Republican businessman again distanced himself from a merger Lazard worked on in 2011 that resulted in an American pharmaceutical company moving its corporate home to Ireland.
Franken didn’t buy it. “If you’re a CEO and you don’t take control of what your company does, what are you going to do as a senator?” he asked.
The moderators pressed Franken to answer whether he would support a temporary travel ban on people coming from West African countries most affected by the Ebola virus. After demurring twice, Franken finally said he has “nothing against” such a ban.
But Franken noted such a ban wouldn’t be effective because few flights from the region travel direct to the U.S. He played up his work to ready Minnesota — which has a significant Liberian population — for a possible outbreak.
Meanwhile, McFadden seized on Franken’s half-hearted answer.
“He didn’t answer it. People want straight talk,” he said. McFadden has repeatedly called for a travel ban, saying the country isn’t prepared to handle the virus.
Questions from everyday Minnesota residents brought the debate into unusual territory.
Asked to weigh in on increasing calls to revoke the National Football League’s tax-exempt status, McFadden said he’d look into the question, while Franken said he would support doing so.
Another question addressed the recent pressure to force the Washington Redskins to change its name. Franken insisted the league should step in and make the change. McFadden said it’s up to the owners, but that he considers the name racist.
“If it was my team, I would change the name,” McFadden said.