In contrast to the negative TV ads running in Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, the candidates for that seat held a largely civil debate last night in Edina.
But Democrat and Iraq war veteran Ashwin Madia did criticize his Republican opponent Erik Paulsen on the war.
Paulsen argued Congress needs to defer to the military leadership as it decides when to withdraw from Iraq. Madia said that's a cop-out.
"I don't think that that's a decision that you can abdicate or punt on as a member of Congress or a member of the civilian leadership. Civilians in this country make policy, when it comes to the military. Just as civilians made the decision to get into this war, so it will take civilian leaders to end this war," Madia said.
Madia favors a "gradual" withdrawal from Iraq, taking between a year-and-a-half to two years. Paulsen thinks that's possible, as long as military leaders agree.
Independence Party candidate David Dillon said the U.S. should be able to withdraw from Iraq in about a year.
Paulsen, Madia and Dillon explained their positions on a variety of other issues, including the so-called Employee Free Choice Act.
The proposed legislation would make it easier to organize a union by eliminating the requirement that employees hold a secret-ballot election to form one.
Instead, a majority of employees would just have to fill out a union card. Madia supports the proposal. Dillon opposes it. So does Paulsen. He says voting by secret ballot is a right.
"I think that taking that right away is critically flawed, because it's going to provide so much opportunity for coercion, for mischief, for antagonism by union bosses and others," Paulsen said.
The candidates also discussed health care.
Madia favors a plan that would mirror Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's. He'd offer subsidies to help citizens buy the same health insurance available to members of Congress.
Paulsen wants to eliminate regulations preventing companies from selling health insurance across state lines.
And Dillon says the United States needs to limit the amount of money spent on health care during the final year of a person's life.
"What other countries have done is created a government program where there's a minimum standard and they find a nice way to say, 'no, Ashwin at 80, you have to go home,'" Dillon said.
Dillon, Madia and Paulsen are running to replace retiring Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad, who represents the Minneapolis suburbs.