ORANGE CITY, Iowa --- U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, sought to tie Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack to the record of President Barack Obama in a debate Thursday, while Vilsack painted King as an ineffective congressman during his five terms.
"Congressman King has been in Congress for 10 years and hasn't gotten the job done," Vilsack said.
She cited his inability to use leverage with House Speaker John Boehner to move a new multi-year Farm Bill ahead in recent weeks before Congress began a recess. The current bill will expire Sunday, and Vilsack said Iowans won't be able to access programs designed to aid young farmers.
King said the key piece that should be addressed in the Farm Bill involves support for crop insurance, while he wants to lessen the increase in the number of people using the food stamp program. He said he anticipates being a member of the Conference Committee that will work out differences in any bills that are passed in the House and Senate, which might come after the Nov. 6 election.
The event, at Northwestern College, was the fourth in a series of debates between the candidates. A debate in Sioux City is planned Oct. 8.
Both candidates Thursday said they would continue support of renewable energy to help improve the Iowa economy. They sparred on immigration policy and gun rights.
King said Vilsack was soft on enforcement by being in favor of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who have been in America for years.
"Mrs. Vilsack is for amnesty," King said.
King added that Obama has been asleep at the switch, for not enforcing immigration laws and cutting off the flow of people crossing over borders into America.
Vilsack said numerous Iowans have asked King "to tone down his rhetoric" on a get-tough immigration policy. She said it isn't productive to the immigration debate nationally when King makes references to illegal immigrants as "stray dogs."
The candidates were asked their stance on gun control and how to protect people after a deadly July mass shooting in a Colorado film theater. Vilsack said she comes from a family of hunters, so she would be a good person to be in the House when gun control issues are discussed.
"Not everybody needs to have access to an assault rifle," Vilsack said.
King drew considerable applause when he said, "The person who pulls the trigger is responsible, not the gun."
King affirmed that his family members are avid hunters and that the prime piece of the Second Amendment "is to guard against tyranny."
"If you don't have an armed populace, a tyrant could take over," he added.
Vilsack said improving the access to mental health services will hopefully reduce the violence inflicted by unstable people.
At one point, King made a reference to the U.S. secretary of agriculture, wondering where he stood on Missouri River flooding legislation. Vilsack's husband, Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, was seated in the front row.
"Congressman King, you are running against me, not my husband," Vilsack said,
The Orange City debate came on the day the campaigns pointed to three new polls on the Iowa 4th congressional district race. King skated to five easy wins from 2002 through 2010 in the soon-to-be-defunct Iowa 5th District, but appears to be in a tight battle with Vilsack in the new 4th District, which includes more North Central counties.
In the American Future Fund poll, King led Vilsack 48 percent to 41 percent, while a Public Policy Polling outcome had King ahead 48-45 percent, and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found King up 48-46 percent.
An independent candidate, Martin Monroe, of Battle Creek, did not participate in the debate.