The two major party candidates for one of Idaho’s U.S. Senate seats tried to saddle each other with the blame and responsibility for the country’s economic woes during a televised debate Tuesday. Incumbent Republican Mike Crapo said America is stealing from future generations for today’s spending programs, while Democrat Tom Sullivan said Crapo has been in charge in Congress during the downturn.

The two candidates met in Nampa for a debate hosted by KTVB and televised across the state. They debated on Idaho Public Television on Oct. 13.

Crapo, seeking his third term, said Sullivan would join the unsuccessful team of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, which has pushed for too much federal spending. “Idahoans want to see a strong resistance to the direction our government has taken for the last four years,” Crapo said.

Sullivan said he admired Reid’s rise from a hardscrabble childhood, which mirrored his own. He also said Crapo is responsible for economic problems including unemployment and home foreclosures. “Sen. Crapo has been in Congress for 18 years,” he said. “The country is struggling, and I think it’s time to make a change.”

Crapo said early in the debate that the two men differ on most issues, which held true throughout much of the debate. Sullivan said he supports a single-payer government backed health care option, the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, and the DREAM Act, which would let the children of illegal immigrants raised in the United States gain legal status by attending college or joining the military.

Crapo didn’t agree with Sullivan on any of those views. He said Congress needs to start over on health care reform, because the bad parts of the plan approved by Congress this year greatly outweigh the good parts.

Sullivan again criticized Crapo’s campaign contributions from banks and other financial companies, saying those contributions could sway his votes.

Crapo, who serves on banking and finance committees in the Senate, said he has broad support because of his votes to help the economy and small businesses. He also said he’s voted against the interests of large banks that have contributed to his campaign. “Why was it that I voted against TARP, against their bailouts, against the stimulus spending that they wanted to have?” he said.

Crapo and Sullivan don’t have any shared public events scheduled during the last two weeks of the campaign.

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