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Wisconsin U.S. Senate Race: Tammy Baldwin & Leah Vukmir Face Off In First Debate

Michelle Maternowski
Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin (left) and challenger Republican Leah Vukmir during the first Wisconsin U.S. Senate debate ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Debate topics included health care, immigration, the #MeToo movement and abortion.

The two candidates for Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seat faced off in their first debate on Monday night. Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin has been described by some as one of the country’s most liberal lawmakers, while her opponent Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir is considered one of Wisconsin’s most conservative.

Health care was the first topic of the debate. Baldwin admitted that a plan she supports that would provide health care for all is expensive — an estimated at $32 trillion over a decade — but says something has to give.


“The study that you sight actually shows that doing nothing would cost more. So, Leah Vukmir’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and go back to the bad old days would actually be more costly, which is something that we have to focus on,” Baldwin said.

In response, Vukmir said that people need to know what Baldwin supports and that it would mean doing away with health care as people know it.

“Under [Baldwin's] plan, the affordable care act goes away, Medicare goes away, everything that we know about insurance goes away. Tricare for our veterans goes away. We also get rid of private insurance,” Vukmir said.

While Baldwin said new ideas are needed to tackle health care, Vukmir urged people to trust her because of her previous career as a nurse.

On the topic of immigration, Vukmir said that a wall between Mexico and the United States is necessary before any other talks about comprehensive immigration reform.

“We think about building the wall only from allowing people to come across the border, illegal immigrants. But that wall is also important from the perspective of human trafficking, drug trafficking, MS-13 gang members. This is the open border philosophy that Senator Baldwin embraces. I don’t embrace that,” Vukmir said.

For her part, Baldwin said a comprehensive approach is the only way to go.

“Take a comprehensive approach rather than piece-by-piece. But the idea of a bill that includes stronger border security, a pathway to citizenship for dreamers, that stops the odious practice of snatching babies from their mothers is really important,” Baldwin said.

Throughout the night, both candidates took jabs at each other, the one thing they somewhat agreed upon is the new trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Baldwin said it moves the U.S. in the right direction while Vukmir said she trusts President Trump.

Not surprisingly, the two candidates differed on their response to a question about late term abortions. Baldwin held tightly to her belief that all women should have the right to choose while Vukmir made it clear that she is pro-life.

Baldwin and Vukmir will debate again later this month.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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