ROCKY HILL, CT — Republican Dan Carter finally got his shot Sunday to debate U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Blumenthal, the first-term Democrat has largely avoided getting into a back and forth with his Republican challenger, who is a state representative in Bethel and largely unknown to a statewide audience.
On Sunday, during their only debate hosted by WFSB, the two actually agreed on a few issues during the hour-long discussion — including universal background checks for gun purchases, funding for Planned Parenthood, and both opposed legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Carter, who needed to perform well Sunday, said after the debate that there’s a few things he wished he would have mentioned, but overall he felt he’d done well. He said he wished the two could have a few more debates before Nov. 8.
Blumenthal said they are still considering future debates, but his campaign has not agreed to any at the moment.
Blumenthal served for 20 years as Connecticut’s attorney general before he was elected in 2010 to his first term in the U.S. Senate. That year, Blumenthal fended off a $50 million challenge from former WWE CEO Linda McMahon. He debated her three times in 2010.
A question about term limits by WFSB reporter Susan Raff opened the door for Carter to discuss the lack of debates.
Carter said Sunday was the first opportunity he’s had to address Blumenthal and his well-funded campaign.
“Even Trump gave three debates,” Carter said of his party’s presidential nominee. “I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is the fact that he can’t ignore the Democratic process. Do term limits. If the United States Congress and Senate want to get together to do a constitutional amendment, I would be very supportive of that.”
Carter said there’s a distrust of Washington and maybe term limits would be good so “we don’t have the same people going to Washington year, after year, after year.”
He suggested the solutions to the problem may also be different.
“In everything my opponent talks about he talks about suing somebody,” Carter said. “I’m a believer that we work with companies, that we work with every stakeholder there is to come up with things that will actually solve the problem.”
In answering the same question, Blumenthal said “we have term limits now Susan, they’re called elections.”
He also decried the use of special interest money in campaigns, especially the dark money allowed under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and anonymously donated to Super PACs.
“It’s the greatest threat we have to the integrity of the system,” Blumenthal said.
There’s no indication outside groups are spending any large sums of money for either Blumenthal, who is ahead in an Emerson College poll by 21 points, or Carter, who has so far been unable to raise enough money to launch TV ads.
Carter said he’s working to get on television before Nov. 8. As far as special interest money is concerned, Carter accused Blumenthal of taking about $1.1 million in special interest money as part of his campaign.
As far as the issue of abortion is concerned, both candidates were able to find common ground.
“Abortion should be safe, rare and legal,” Blumenthal said. “These consultations are to be made by women in consultation with their clergy, and their families, and others who are involved, but it should be their decision, not the government interfering.”
Carter said he believes in a woman’s right choose, but he believes there should be more done to lower the number of abortions.
“The way to do that is through education,” Carter said. “. . . It’s important they have all the information available.”
Asked in a lighting round if 12,000 abortions in Connecticut in 2012 was too many, Carter said “yes.” Blumenthal said “the number of abortions isn’t the measure of the effectiveness of our constitutional law. It’s individuals exercising the right of choice.”
Earlier this year, Senate Democrats twice blocked legislation that would have provided $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus because the legislation would have excluded Planned Parenthood from the list of providers that get new funding for contraception to fight the spread of the disease, which can be sexually transmitted.
Blumenthal said he makes no apologies for voting against that legislation.
“In fact, the Zika bill was passed initially with a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate without those poison pills,” he added. “We can reach across the aisle and do that.”
Carter said he would abandon party politics whenever he can and work with both sides, and he is not in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood even though he would have voted in favor of the Zika funding bill. He said not giving one organization funding in that situation would not have harmed its operations, which he said provide necessary health services to women.
After the debate, Blumenthal said voters want to see more cooperation among elected officials.
“I think there’s a lot of room for bipartisan agreement,” Blumenthal said.
He said voters want Congress to break the gridlock and get more done.
“Compromise is not a dirty word,” Blumenthal said.