HAMPTON — Christie Vilsack said Monday night she will be a problem- solver rather than a partisan fighter if she wins election to Congress.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, who Vilsack is challenging in the November election, said the destiny of America is at stake in the election.

“Either we follow the Constitution or we follow the current leader who has turned the other way,” he said.

“We have a president who doesn’t believe in the Constitution, he doesn’t believe in life and he doesn’t believe in families,” said King.

He said the best way to get the country back on track is to repeal “Obamacare,” pass a balanced budget amendment and strive for energy independence.

The debate was held at the Windsor Theater and lasted a little more than an hour.

Vilsack was on the attack much of the night, peppering her remarks with claims of King’s lack of leadership on almost every issue discussed.

At one point, King said, “Let’s see, we’re up to 15 baseless charges.”

Vilsack said she was well-suited to handle the temperaments in Congress because as a middle school teacher for many years she was used to dealing with “adolescent behaviors.”

Most of the themes King and Vilsack touched on were familiar.

King said he was for the “100 percent repeal of Obamacare.”

“There is no part of it worth keeping that would be more important than repealing the whole thing,” he said.

Vilsack said it is a good bill but has some flaws. She said coverage of pre-existing conditions and keeping young people on their parents’ insurance until age 26 were good provisions.

But she said, “We must find cost savings. We must pay for results such as keeping people out of hospitals and other prevention measures — and Congressman King doesn’t have a plan.”

Addressing the federal deficit, King said two things need to happen to bring it under control.

“We’ll balance the budget when we have a president and Congress willing to do it — we need to stop sending spenders to Congress — and we have to have a balanced budget amendment,” he said.

Vilsack said the balanced budget amendment proposal is a “gimmick.”

“It is kicking the can down the road,” she said.

The key to balancing the budget is having people in Congress who know how to compromise to get things done.

She said King has done little to try to balance the budget.

“He supported two wars we didn’t pay for and he has voted himself pay raises five times,” she said.

Regarding job creation and growth, Vilsack said the rest of the nation could take a lesson from Iowa with its job market in wind energy and renewable fuels.

“Create products made from plants rather than petroleum,” she said.

King said high tax rates and too many regulations are intimidating employers.

“And in order to have jobs, you have to have employers,” he said.

King said his advice to people looking for work is, “If you can’t find a job, start a business on your own.”

Vilsack said people need to know one big difference between King and her.

“He wants to promote his agenda; I want to promote your agenda,” she said.

King, 63, of Kiron, owned a construction company when he was elected to the Iowa Senate, where he served six years before being elected to Congress in 2002.

Vilsack, 62, taught middle school and high school language arts and was a resident of Mount Pleasant when her husband, Tom Vilsack, was elected Iowa governor in 1998. He is now U.S. secretary of agriculture. She is seeking public office for the first time.

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