Abortion, inflation, farm policy explored in only U.S. Senate debate
Bengs, Lesnar attempt to paint incumbent Thune as creature of Washington
Republican incumbent Sen. John Thune (center) faced off with Democrat Brian Bengs (left) and Libertarian Tamara Lesnar (right) in a televised debate on South Dakota Public Broadcasting, co-hosted by Dakota News Now. (SD Searchlight/Joshua Haiar).
SIOUX FALLS — Three candidates for South Dakota’s lone U.S. Senate seat sparred over the causes and remedies for inflation, veteran’s affairs, immigration and abortion policy on Friday, but found common ground on meat packing monopolies.
Republican incumbent Sen. John Thune faced off with Democrat Brian Bengs and Libertarian Tamara Lesnar in the televised debate, co-hosted by South Dakota Public Broadcasting and Dakota News Now.
Thune and Bengs agreed that energy costs are the primary cause of inflation, but the two differed on how to control prices.
Bengs laid the blame for high gas prices on corporate greed and Thune’s 2015 vote to end the export ban on American crude oil. Thune, he argued, has become a creature of Washington.
“The big oil companies have given nearly half a million dollars to Thune’s campaign,” Bengs said. “Washington John Thune is on the big oil payroll.”
Thune countered by saying that the answer to high energy prices is an increase in the supply of energy. He said President Joe Biden’s energy policies have blocked domestic energy producers.
“We need policies that get our energy producers off the sidelines and back in the game,” Thune said.
The other cause of inflation, Thune said, has been rampant government spending.
Libertarian candidate Tamara Lesnar pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic, war, supply chain interruption, “the great national labor strike,” and monopolies controlling prices.
“John Thune wants to blame one party, one president, but he’s been in office since the 107th congress,” Lesnar said.
That’s how much of the night went – Thune fending off attacks from the Democratic challenger and the Libertarian who agreed with Bengs on taxing the rich and expanding Medicaid.
Bengs and Lesnar each said they believe in a woman’s right to choose and criticized the incumbent’s record on the issue of abortion.
Thune called his opponents’ positions extreme if they meant abortion up to birth. Thune endorsed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but said any decision beyond that should be up to the states.
“I think a 15 week ban is a reasonable place to land, and it’s consistent with what 47 out of 50 European countries already do,” Thune said.
All three agreed that stronger antitrust laws within the meatpacking industry are overdue.
The debate will replay on Dakota News Now at 1 p.m. CST Sunday, and on SDPB Radio at 12 p.m. CST Monday.
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