GREEN BAY - Wisconsin's race for U.S. Senate has become the most expensive in state history with a lot on the line.
After 24 years Democratic Senator Herb Kohl is giving up his seat in Congress. Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin looks to replace him. While Republicans, both in the state and nationally, are counting on former Governor Tommy Thompson.
Both sides agree the race has gotten ugly.
It is hard to miss the ads attacking Baldwin as "too liberal and too extreme.”
"I expected when I went into this race that there would be name calling," said Baldwin recently at her campaign office in Waukesha.
And Thompson has taken a beating for a spot that edits together parts of a speech where Thompson says, "Who better than me... to do away with Medicaid and Medicare."
"We'll first off they mischaracterized it," said Thompson about the ad. "What I'm doing is saying I'm going to stop Medicare from going broke. Medicare is going bankrupt and my opponent has been in Congress for 14 years and has done absolutely nothing to stop it from going broke."
Thompson is running on his four-term record as governor, holding the office from 1987 to 2001. Voters know him as Tommy, and he boasts about his 91 tax cuts and creating 742,000 jobs during his time in office.
"Is the plan that you had when you were governor going to work in Washington now?" we asked Thompson
"Well, absolutely. First off you've got to be able to grow the economy instead of shrink the economy like Tammy Baldwin and President Obama have done," said Thompson.
Baldwin says her priority is fighting for the middle class, and making the rich and big business pay their fair share.
"I think it comes down to a pretty simple issue about whose side you're on. As I said, I've stood up to the powerful interests throughout my career," said Baldwin. "Tommy Thompson has taken on the same powerful interests as clients at his Washington, D.C. lobbying firm."
Thompson says the last two years in Congress haven't been effective. At 70 years old he believes he can help bring about reform.
Fifty-year-old Baldwin says partisan politics created the deadlock, but the economy and unemployment rate are showing signs of improvement.
The candidates are on the attack every chance they get. After all there's a lot on the line here.
Wisconsin's Senate race could help Republicans regain control of the Senate. They need to flip four seats. That has made this the most expensive Senate race in Wisconsin history with more than $40 million spent so far, most ($28 million according to the Federal Election Commission) by outside groups on negative ads. And the latest polls show a dead heat.
So on the key issues we asked them to set the record straight.
"So when Tommy says you've done nothing vote-wise to preserve or help Medicare that's not true?" asked FOX 11’s Mark Leland.
"It's absolutely untrue. The first thing I'd point to is my work on the Affordable Care Act,” said Baldwin.
A FOX 11 Fact Check confirms Baldwin's claim. Medicare's chief actuary reports under the Affordable Care Act fewer dollars spent on Medicare in the future would extend its finances longer.
"Tammy Baldwin says your plan is going to cost seniors more money. Is that accurate?" asked FOX 11.
"Absolutely not. My plan is not going to cost the seniors more money. My plan is going to allow seniors to have the security of knowing there's going to be a Medicare plan that's not going to go bankrupt,” said Thompson.
A FOX 11 Fact Check shows Thompson's claim is party true. Thompson's modification to Representative Paul Ryan's plan offers seniors a secure plan, but the numbers haven't been calculated, so any cost increase or decrease isn't yet known.
On taxing the middle class.
"Tommy never raises taxes, I've cut taxes 91 times," said Thompson.
"Now would be the worst time to raise taxes on the middle class and small business just as we're trying to get our economy back and at full throttle," said Baldwin.
If elected, Baldwin would not only be the first female senator from Wisconsin, she would be the first openly gay member of the Senate. And while campaigning she knows she's viewed as a role model.
"But as we talk about this issue, I have to say on the campaign trail across Wisconsin people want jobs, good jobs, they want to see our economy moving back on track and so that's what voters are focused on," said Baldwin.
"To me I'm running on the issues: Medicare reform, job creation, healthcare reform," said Thompson.
Thompson and Baldwin say voters should be focusing on the issues and beware of the negative ads, and the partisan rhetoric.
The election is set for November 6th.
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