Three-term Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney pointed to his nearly six years of experience representing San Joaquin County, while Republican challenger Ricky Gill said that McNerney has neglected the county while serving in Congress, as the two candidates squared off Tuesday before on overflow crowd at University of the Pacific.
The two are battling for California's 9th Congressional District seat. The district includes Lodi, Galt and Stockton.
Gill, a 25-year-old who grew up in Lodi and lives in the community, blamed McNerney for the county's high foreclosure rate, not living in the 9th Congressional District, not serving the county's agricultural interests, breaking a campaign promise to reduce the national debt, voting against the controversial Keystone Pipeline that would bring oil from Canada to the United States, and being tardy in opposing the proposed Peripheral Canal.
"We cannot send the same people back to Washington and expect different results," Gill said.
McNerney said that he has been vocal in his opposition to the Peripheral Canal for a long time, and he supports veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in receiving counseling and job training once they come home. McNerney made note of the workshops he's conducted for people facing foreclosure on their homes, and he supports government helping people who need it the most.
"I have a clear understanding of the issues in the Valley," McNerney said. "I will work for the middle class and not the wealthy in this county."
McNerney attacked Gill for accepting a $5,000 contribution from the California Westlands Farmers Political Action Committee.
"He took thousands of dollars from Westlands, which is hell-bent to build the Peripheral Canal," McNerney said.
Gill responded that Westlands supports his candidacy despite his opposition to the canal.
Meanwhile, Gill attacked McNerney for accepting campaign contributions from Wall Street banks, while Gill said he refuses to accept contributions from Wall Street.
McNerney asked Gill to stop his personal attacks and stick to the issues.
Here are some other issues that came up during the debate:
Protecting Delta waters: Both cited their opposition to a canal or tunnel transporting water to Southern California and the southern San Joaquin Valley, but Gill accused McNerney of taking five years to publicly oppose the canal.
Home foreclosures: McNerney said he hosted workshops to help people facing foreclosures. Gill noted that Stockton remains in the top five nationally in foreclosures during McNerney's watch.
Federal funding of Planned Parenthood: McNerney said he is pro-choice. Gill said he's focusing on "bread and butter issues" like jobs and home foreclosures.
Keystone Pipeline: Gill said he supports transporting oil from northern Canada to the United States to improve supply.
"I think that's a windfall for the American people," Gill said.
McNerney countered that the pipeline could crack, and the project could harm water in the United States.
Tuesday's debate drew about 350 to Pacific's Long Theatre, and about 150 more saw the debate from a large-screen TV in an adjacent building.
Panelists asking questions to the candidates were Daphne Shaw of the San Joaquin County League of Women Voters, political science professor Bob Benedetti from Pacific and News 10 reporter Tim Daly.