BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Less than a week before Election Day, voters got their last chance to compare the top three Senate candidates side by side. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Congressman Bill Cassidy and Col. Rob Maness faced off in a final debate Wednesday night.
Because it was the final debate platform, the candidates did not pull punches at each other. Opportunities to rebuttal and respond to each other allowed for a little more spontaneity than we've seen in past meetings. While there were familiar campaign messages presented by all three such as their stance on Obamacare and Medicaid, the topic of immigration was one that elicited a heated response.
Panelists asked all three what should be done about the millions of illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. While all candidates expressed the need for a strong and secure border, they disagreed on how to address the status of an illegal immigrant.
Maness repeated several times that the top priority was to secure the border. He also said he did not support any amnesty or pathways to citizenship for illegals. Instead, he believed all illegals should be deported.
In contrast, Landrieu says she supports a process in which illegals would be fined and then put at the end of the line for citizenship. She also talked about her record of supporting strong border patrols and pointed out that she was the only candidate to visit the border.
Cassidy said addressing the status of illegal immigrants depends on securing the border. He said that once the border is secure, the country can better tackle the issue of illegal immigrants living in the United States.
Candidates were also each asked a question tailored to them. For Landrieu, the panel asked why she chartered flights for Senate business and racked up a $33,000 bill- money Landrieu admitted to misusing and paid back.
"Others travel differently. Sometimes I travel by car, sometimes I travel by plane. It's within the budget it is within the rules. I take full responsibility for the error and paid the money back," said Landrieu.
Cassidy was asked why he has only appeared at two debates, and if that was part of his strategy to make it to the runoff.
"People always ascribe motives to you, that's their general purpose. My motive is to meet as many voters as possible and frankly reporters are the folks I meet most often," said Cassidy.
Finally, Maness was asked if his commitment to serving only two terms would put the state at a disadvantage because it would lead to a lack of seniority in Congress for Louisiana.
"Our government was meant to be run by citizen legislatures not this political class that we the citizens have allowed to be created over the last few decades and we need to eliminate it," said Maness.
The candidates were also asked a lightning round of yes or no questions. The first was "Would you support a higher minimum wage?"
Landrieu said yes, Cassidy said no, and Maness said it should be set at a state level.
The second question was, "Would you support same-sex marriage?"
In a trickier answer, Landrieu said she would support the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. Cassidy said he believes in traditional marriage. Maness said that he also believes in traditional marriage, but that the decision should be left up to each state.