RENO - Democrat Jack Carter took exception to charges he's a carpetbagger and accused GOP Sen. John Ensign of being "subservient" to President Bush Monday night while Ensign painted Carter as soft on illegal aliens and called "outrageous" his criticism of Bush's regard for families of U.S. war dead and injured.In the final debate between Nevada's two major U.S. Senate candidates televised live in Reno and Las Vegas, Carter said Ensign is beholden to Bush because he votes with him 96 percent of the time."Senator Ensign represents staying the course, not just staying the course in Iraq but in every issue the White House tells him to do," Carter said."Not because it's good for Nevadans, but because he is subservient to this administration. He has done nothing for the working men and women in this state," the son of former President Carter said."He is working for the wrong folks. I will be Nevada's voice in Washington."
Ensign countered that Carter has collected 84 percent of his campaign contributions from out of state - raising more money in California alone than in Nevada."How can you say you want to be Nevada's voice in Washington when almost all of your supporters are from out of state?" the first-term senator asked during a head-to-head section of the debate."We need Nevada leaders who understand Nevada and Nevadans ... who understand what our history is. Who understand the Nevada way of life," Ensign said, adding that his own Nevada roots go back to his boyhood after his great-grandparents settled in the state nearly 100 years ago.Carter, now a Las Vegas businessman who grew up in Plains, Ga., said campaign ads attacking him as a carpetbagger are unfairly disparaging."If I lived here and went to Washington and voted with the administration 96 percent of the time, I might as well be from Texas," he said.
Carter said he and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Nevada from Bermuda in 2002 because they liked the climate, the outdoor recreation and the affordable housing market."The surprising thing to me was this libertarian bent we have here in this state," Carter said. "It moved my soul. I felt exactly like I was at home. We came out here to spend the rest of our lives in Nevada."On other topics, both said they support stem cell research, but Ensign only on adult stem cells - not embryonic cells - because of his concern for "folks who believe life begins at conception."Ensign said he opposes amnesty for illegals as part of a major immigration bill in Congress but would subsequently work to develop a worker program and believes the most important objective is "to secure our borders."Carter said establishing a "pathway to citizenship" is most important and the only way to get illegals "out of the shadows.""We don't have the money to chase all these people and ship them back to where they came from," he said.
Ensign said he has supported increases in the minimum wage in the past and would do so now but only if it is accompanied by relief for small businesses, which is not possible if it is tied to the Consumer Price Index, as proposed.Carter said he advocates raising the minimum wage and would not oppose tying it to increases in the CPI but prefers earmarking it to ever-rising salaries paid to U.S. senators.Among some of the more offbeat proposals, Carter said unmanned, flying drones at Ellis Air Force Base could do some double duty monitoring wild horse herds and wildfires - an example of how difference branches of government could work together to save money while accomplishing important tasks.Ensign said developing a threat of nuclear weapons in Japan is the best way to put pressure on China and therefore on North Korea to halt its pursuit of such weapons. But Carter said there's no way to put that much pressure on China as long as it owns billions of dollars of the U.S.' debt.On Iraq, Ensign said he recognizes some changes need to be made there and that he has been unsuccessfully in attempts to persuade the Bush administration to pursue a policy that would give the Iraqi people ownership of that country's oil.
"They should all own shares of the oil," he said, as a way to create wealth and opportunity for young Iraqis.Earlier in the debate, Carter said the Bush administration has a "failed policy in Iraq." He said Bush and Vice President Cheney "have never been - or at least you've seen no pictures - to a hospital where have disabled veterans coming back."Lyndon Johnson called the family of every single casualty when we were in Vietnam," he said, also taking aim at passage of a law making it illegal to photograph flag-draped coffins. "They don't want people to think about the war."That drew Ensign's strongest response of the night."To say president Bush hasn't visited with the wounded or the families - I've been there when he has done that. He just doesn't make it a public relations stunt like a lot of people," Ensign said."It is outrageous for my opponent to accuse the president of doing that when he just doesn't know any better."