Tenenbaum, DeMint exchange unpleasantries on social security, taxes, gay teachers - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Tenenbaum, DeMint exchange unpleasantries on social security, taxes, gay teachers

(SC-AP) Oct. 4, 2004 - The race for US Senate, already criticized by some for being too negative, got down right nasty at times during Sunday's first televised debate between three-term Republican US Representative Jim DeMint and Democrat State Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum.

DeMint repeatedly told a statewide television audience that Tenenbaum doesn't understand key national issues, a tactic she called patronizing.

In the fiery debate the two candidates challenged positions on everything from Social Security and taxes to national security and abortion. DeMint said Tenenbaum does not understand how Social Security is set up, "I don't know if Ms. Tenenbaum is confused or just being dishonest."

That remark halfway through the debate at the College of Charleston prompted the superintendent to scold DeMint for questioning her grasp of issues, "Jim's only response to anything that I say is she doesn't understand. Frankly Jim, that's a little patronizing and really, you've got daughters of your own and you really oughta not do that anymore."

DeMint briefly apologized. He then defended his description of calling Tenenbaum a nice lady during the campaign trail and in radio ads and again said she does not understand issues.

The pair were questioned about a state Republican Party platform item that says gays should not teach in public schools. DeMint says he supports that because government should not endorse particular behaviors. Tenenbaum says that is a really bad thing and just un-American.

The sparring often returned to Tenenbaum's accusations that DeMint will try to institute a 23 percent sales tax. DeMint returned that the proposal was only one of several aimed at reforming the IRS tax code, and one which would eliminate income taxes and give every American family a check monthly to help cover the higher sales tax.

The debate started as a new independent poll of likely voters shows DeMint leading with 50 percent of the vote to Tenenbaum's 38 percent. The Mason-Dixon poll conducted for The Charleston Post and Courier had a margin of sampling error of four percentage points and is based on telephone interviews conducted September 27th through 29th. Blacks made up 26 percent of respondents.

Pollster Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc. said South Carolina may be too staunchly Republican and President Bush may have coattails long enough to prevent any Democrat from winning a top-tier statewide office this year.

Tenenbaum and DeMint will debate at WIS studios on October 18th. WIS encourages you to submit a question that may be used in the debate.

The two are seeking to replace retiring Democrat Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, who has held the seat since 1966.

Updated 5:31pm by Chantelle Janelle

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