Second Sandlin-Gohmert Debate Appeals To Core East Texas Values

It's one of the last times the two candidates for Congressional District 1 can get their message out to the voters unfiltered.

The debate was held at the Cowan Center last night -- presented by KLTV 7 and UT Tyler.

Monday night's face-off was not only about the issues facing the nation, but about faith and morality. Those are big issues for East Texas voters.

Gohmert: "I have prayed for wisdom since I was six years old, and perhaps I'm one of the good examples of how God can wait 40 years and not answer a prayer, I'm still seeking wisdom and I hope to have it one day."

Sandlin: "I got good training from my parents on issues of faith, and those things are part of who I am and they're a part of this country. Our law is based on Judeo-Christian principles on right and wrong."

The fight for control of Congress is fierce.  It's a house divided along party lines. Both candidates though say they are the right man to make sure seniors have what they need, health care that works.

Sandlin: "The bill that we passed in the United States Congress a few months ago was a sham, a trick.  It was a cruel hoax on seniors in America because it did nothing to give prescription drugs to seniors."

Gohmert: "You've got to have competition to make this work. I'm for bringing drugs in from wherever in this world we can get them, so long as they are safe. And that's what I would like to see done."

Overseas, both candidates don't want to place blame for intelligence failures over Iraq.

Gohmert: "If it turns out that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and that we were misled by the President and the administration and these different people, then my background as a Christian says we need to forgive."

Sandlin: "I'm not going to say it's the Bush administration's fault, or the Clinton administration's fault. It was poor intelligence. We have to do better. We have to invest better."

On the issue of so-called partial birth abortion, Sandlin says he voted for the ban, but there has to be an exception for rape or incest.

Sandlin: "I think we need to make it rare, unfortunate, and difficult, but when a woman is a victim of a crime, you don't exacerbate that crime by saying you cannot terminate that pregnancy. It is a difficult issue."

Gohmert says Sandlin's vote waters down the ban.

Gohmert: "Even though he voted for the ban, it was supporting that and the [another] amendment that would have emasculated the partial birth abortion ban. There is no medical justification for that procedure."

The campaign hasn't been framed by stump speeches or town hall meetings, but by the negative ads blanketing the airwaves. Both men says the other has lied.

Gohmert: "Despite my looking my opponent in the eye and explaining what he already knew, I was not for a 30 percent tax. He sent another flyer saying I want a 30 percent tax. Louie Gohmert will tax everything."

Sandlin: "You got an ad running on TV and everyone's seen it, that I support children having access to pornography. I can tell you this: there has never been a republican or a democrat anywhere in the United States or anywhere else that supports that."

It's by all indications a close race, and there's no sign the rhetoric from the candidates and their parties will wane over the next week. Supporters tell us their choice has been made.

It's those undecideds that may decide Election '04.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.