By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Tony Evers, both delivered well-rehearsed, sharp attack lines on hot topics in the governor’s race in their first debate Friday. Walker and Evers, the state superintendent, are locked in a tight battle for governor with the election just over two weeks away.
Here were some of the most notable topics debated:
Both Walker and Evers discussed the questions about their credibility.
On Thursday, a fourth former Walker Cabinet secretary came forward to harshly criticize the two-term governor and signed a letter with two other former secretaries calling for the election of Evers. And just hours before the debate, Evers admitted that four sections in the budget proposal he had submitted for the state education department were taken from other sources without credit.
Walker discounted the criticism from his former top administration officials, saying he welcomed having people with diverse opinions.
Evers said the real issue was “about how you govern and how the people of Wisconsin trust you.” He said the allegation that Walker put his political aspirations ahead of the people of Wisconsin “is something, frankly, that is very frightening to me.”
Evers also shrugged off the charges of plagiarism.
“If this is the best Scott Walker has, he doesn’t have very much,” Evers said. “We dropped a few citations from the back pages of a budget. … The last thing I need in my life is to have Scott Walker lecturing me about the issue of plagiarism, frankly.”
He accused Walker of signing conservative national model legislation into law with few changes.
Walker said he didn’t know of any student who could turn in a term paper with plagiarism like what was in the budget Evers had submitted.
Walker repeated his argument that Evers will raise property and income taxes and the gas tax by as much as $1 a gallon.
“You better hang on to your wallets and purses because he’s going to raise your taxes,” Walker said.
Evers has not proposed a dollar-a-gallon gas-tax hike and said Friday he wouldn’t do that and was hoping not to raise any taxes, but was open to it.
“Holy mackerel is what I say,” Ever said. “Of course, the people of Wisconsin understand, except Scott Walker keeps repeating it, a dollar a gallon is ridiculous and isn’t going to happen.”
Evers said Walker’s decisions to cut taxes at the state level forced local communities to raise taxes and fees, such as wheel taxes on vehicles.
“That’s a Scott Walker tax,” Evers said.
Evers supports the Affordable Care Act, which has a coverage guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions, whereas Walker is a longtime opponent of the law. Walker this year permitted the state to join a federal lawsuit seeking the repeal of the law. Walker has called for the Legislature to pass a bill providing state protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but it didn’t pass in the Senate.
“We can protect people with pre-existing conditions without protecting the failure that is ‘Obamacare,'” Walker said.
Evers called Walker’s explanation of his position a “breathtaking soliloquy.” Evers said Walker is “talking out of both sides of his mouth” when he calls for repealing the national health care law while claiming to support coverage guarantees for pre-existing conditions.
Evers defended his proposed budget, which includes a 10 percent increase for schools, of which the state would pay for two-thirds of costs. His proposal did not say how the $1.4 billion increase would be paid for.
Walker this week also said he is committed to have the state cover two-thirds of schools’ budgets, something that hasn’t happened in 15 years. Walker has similarly not said where the roughly $130 million a year to pay for that proposal would come from.
But Walker said he proved that property taxes can be cut while education spending is increased, as it was in his last budget, which Evers praised. Evers said he supported Walker’s education budget last year because it was largely what Evers had proposed.
“My definition of plagiarism is when Scott Walker takes my budget and calls it his own,” Evers said, a sly reference to the uncredited passages from his state budget.
Walker and Evers will debate for a second and final time on Oct. 26, just 11 days before the general election on Nov. 6.