DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - Former Gov. Edwin Edwards and Garret Graves were combative from beginning to end of their final debate for the 6th Congressional District, taking shots at each other early and even arguing over endorsements after the debate ended.
In the last debate for the 6th Congressional District seat, it was old school politics versus new school politics. From the start, former Gov. Edwin Edwards told the audience his experience was key.
"I was the governor of the state for 16 years and you got to know me," Edwards said. "If you liked the way I did things, then vote for me for Congress."
His opponent, Garret Graves, on the other hand, insisted a new direction was due.
"Louisiana citizens don't have the state they deserve," Graves said. "They don't have the future that they deserve."
Surprisingly, the candidates did agree on some points. Both said workers needed more vocational training to fill available high skill jobs and that a breakdown in strong family values is a leading social problem.
However, that's where the similarities ended. When asked about economic problems facing the nation, the two were divided on government regulation.
"The US has the most expensive tax code compliance, one of the most expensive labor compliance, one of the most expensive environmental costs. Just complying with regulations in this country cost up to $10,000 per employee per year. That's absurd. We've got to get the government out of our business," Graves argued.
"If there was no government, kids would still be working in coal mines. If there was no government, people would still be working 80 hours a week trying to make a living. If there's no government, women and minorities would still be in the shadows of our economy and our society. We are a regulated society and we need the steady hand of government," Edwards countered.
The two also had different views on President Barack Obama's immigration executive order.
"President Obama is signing executive orders, which I don't think he ought to sign, but he's signing them because Congress refuses to do anything about the problem. It's ridiculous to talk about sending 12 million people to their country of origin. We don't know where they are, we'd have a hard time finding them, it's very expensive and many employers in the country depend on them for getting the job done. The border needs to be secured by whatever means it needs to take. Recognize that it affects more than just the immigrants here, but it affects the employers who are using them to keep the economy of this country going," Edwards explained.
"It's a crisis that's created by the president's lack of action. There are laws on the books today that say you are to deport, that say we are to secure the border, that say it's illegal to come into the United States. I don't agree with the president granting amnesty to 5 million people. Those people are here taking jobs away from Americans and if jobs are taken away, then those people, in many cases, are probably being put on the government doll and we're paying for the different benefits," Graves rebutted.
Edwards accused Graves of mishandling contracts while he was working for the state. Graves shot back, saying he has never done anything illegal in his career.
The biggest controversy of the night actually occurred when the debate ended. In his closing arguments, Graves said he had the support of every sheriff in the 6th Congressional District. Edwards called that a lie and started naming individual sheriffs that he believed did not support Graves.
According to a representative from the Louisiana Sheriff's Association, the sheriffs of the 6th Congressional District voted to endorse Graves as a group. However, not ever sheriff was present for that vote.