McCaskill, Hawley debate in St. Louis

Hawley, McCaskill debate for the first time

ST. LOUIS, MO (KFVS/AP) - Senator Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger Josh Hawley met in their first debate-style matchup on Friday, September 14.

The two candidates appeared at a forum during the Missouri Press Association convention in St. Louis. This was the first time the candidates have debated.

McCaskill, Hawley Senate debate

WATCH LIVE: Sen. McCaskill & Josh Hawley debate in St. Louis

Posted by KFVS-TV on Friday, September 14, 2018

The Senate race in Missouri is among the nation’s most closely-watched campaigns, one of a handful expected to decide which party controls the Senate, where Republicans currently hold a 51-49 advantage.

Hawley has the support of President Donald Trump, who carried Missouri by 19 percentage points in 2016. At least seven times during the hour-long debate he referred to McCaskill as “another Washington liberal.”

McCaskill is seeking her third term. She said she supports the president when it benefits Missouri and opposes him when it does not.

She said she wakes up every day wondering what she can do for Missouri, “the red parts and the blue parts.”

Hawley repeated claims used in political ads that McCaskill’s husband has received $131 million in federal subsidies to build low-income housing.

McCaskill said that as a senator she had no role in approving tax credits for projects in which her husband, Joseph Shepard, was a minority partner.

She said Shepard “started out with nothing and he built a fabulously successful business, creating thousands of jobs and great wealth. I met him, I fell in love with him, and we have a wonderful family. He’s done nothing wrong.”

Hawley addressed McCaskill’s long-standing criticism of his decision as attorney general to join a lawsuit against former President Barack Obama’s health care law. McCaskill said if the lawsuit was successful, families would lose coverage for pre-existing conditions.

He said his own young son has a bone condition and he would never support any change that wouldn’t cover pre-existing conditions.

The two differed on several other issues.

McCaskill said Trump’s escalating trade war is hurting farmers as well as manufacturers. But Hawley applauded the president for standing up to unfair trade practices in other countries, particularly China.

Hawley said he supports Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. According to the Associated Press, while talking to reporters after the debate, Hawley said the Senate should confirm the nomination despite a new allegation of sexual misconduct when Kavanaugh was in high school.

He said he never disregards sexual misconduct allegations but this one “appears to be another attempt to stall and delay” Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

McCaskill said she was concerned about thousands of pages related to Kavanaugh that were not initially turned over to the Senate, and was also troubled by his rulings on dark money. She said she was still undecided on her confirmation vote.

The debate started at 3 p.m. and lasted about an hour.

Copyright 2018 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.