Heated words escalated Monday night as the leading Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in Kansas continued to spar over voting records on immigration, terrorism and taxes.
At one point during the televised debate on KWCH, Rep. Jerry Moran accused Rep. Todd Tiahrt of "telling stories that simply aren't true."
After the debate, Tiahrt said all of his claims are documented.
"He wants to run from his record," Tiahrt said. "He's never had someone hold him accountable before."
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Tiahrt also accused Moran of calling him "despicable" and "slimy" in a TV ad.
After the debate, Moran said those were not his words but those from editorials in Kansas newspapers.
"Oh, really," Tiahrt said following the debate. "What does his ad say at the very end? It says, 'Hi, I'm Jerry Moran, and I approved this message.'
"I don't care whose quote it is. He approved saying I'm despicable and slimy, and I think that's a very serious character assassination."
Tiahrt, R-Goddard, also claimed during the 30-minute debate that Moran has voted to raise taxes, voted for amnesty for illegal immigrants and voted against building a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Moran, R-Hays, used up a chunk of his 25 seconds to respond to a question about term limits by saying, "Let me first express my disappointment in Congressman Tiahrt's continual response to any question asked (by) attacking me.
"I voted more than 200 times to lower taxes. I certainly didn't vote not to build a fence."
Immediately following the debate, Tiahrt's campaign aired a new TV ad that featured Gracia Burnham, the Rose Hill missionary who was held captive by a terrorist group in the Philippines from May 2001 to June 2002. Her husband, Martin, was killed during their rescue.
During the ad that accused Moran of voting to give terrorists constitutional rights, Burnham said, "There's no excuse, there just isn't."
Tiahrt's claim is based on Moran voting against military tribunals in 2006. Moran said after the debate that he'd viewed the legislation as unconstitutional and said it didn't provide enough "toughness."
"I happen to agree there is no excuse, that no terrorist deserves constitutional rights," Moran said.
The debate also included candidate Tom Little, a Mound City accountant. He said he wanted all illegal immigrants to be removed from the country and that an officeholder should not be elected for more than two terms.
Robert Londerholm, a former Kansas attorney general and the fourth Republican candidate in the Aug. 3 primary, declined to participate in the debate.
Moran and Tiahrt will debate again today, starting at noon at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. They were the only candidates invited to participate.
The event, which is sold out, is sponsored by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. It will be televised today at 7 p.m. on Channel 22.
Four of the five Democratic candidates in the Senate race are scheduled to participate in a live debate at 6:30 p.m. next Monday on KWCH.
David Haley, Lisa Johnston, Charles Schollenberger and Patrick Wiesner have said they will take part. Bob Conroy has told the station he won't participate.