Politics & Government

Vern Buchanan, Keith Fitzgerald clash on issues, character in TV debate

U.S. Congressional District 16 candidates incumbent Vern Buchanan and challenger Keith Fitzgerald get into a heated exchange during a forum hosted by the Bradenton Herald and taped at the Manatee Education Television Station.
TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald
U.S. Congressional District 16 candidates incumbent Vern Buchanan and challenger Keith Fitzgerald get into a heated exchange during a forum hosted by the Bradenton Herald and taped at the Manatee Education Television Station. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald ttompkins@bradenton.com

MANATEE -- It was a slugfest today as Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald and Republican incumbent Vern Buchanan sparred in a televised debate about Medicare and Social Security, the economy, how to balance the federal budget and their records -- and ethics -- as elected officials.

The moderator stepped in several times to separate the two 16th Congressional District candidates when the discussion became too heated, as each one vied to win voters over to his point of view.

The two clashed over the future of Social Security and Medicare, federal programs that aid hundreds of thousands of Manatee residents.

Buchanan, first elected to the U.S. House in 2006, claimed that the Obama Administration would cut $716 billion out of the Medicare program to pay for its overhaul of the nation's healthcare system.

Fitzgerald, a former Florida state representative, agreed on the amount, but argued that a bipartisan commission had said the money constituted overpayments to insurance companies.

"Rep. Buchanan's plan was to actually take that and use it for tax cuts for the wealthiest people, adding, "He should really understand what he's voting for," Fitzgerald said.

Buchanan countered that the region would suffer cuts to Medicare of $2.2 billion, saying, "Their cuts are very real: Obamacare raids Medicare and goes into Obamacare to pay for it."

The debate was at the METV Studios. It will be featured in The Bradenton Herald and will be broadcast on METV.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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