Locals weigh in on VP debate

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat /

Democrats and Republicans from Tuolumne and Calaveras counties tuned in Thursday night to the first and only debate between Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Paul Ryan.

During the 90-minute debate in Danville, Ky., the candidates discussed unemployment, national debt, Medicare, Social Security, income taxes, conflicts abroad, abortion and the tone of recent political campaign ads.

Mother Lode residents weighed in on the responses and etiquette of the candidates and moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

"It would be difficult to say who won because it was contentious and it wasn't obvious who was making the better points," said Patricia Ryan, secretary of the Tuolumne County Republican Central Committee.

Both candidates interrupted each other throughout the debate, and Biden made comments about the Wisconsin congressman having more time to respond to questions. He described some of his challenger's statements as "a bunch of malarkey" and often laughed while Paul Ryan was speaking.

Ryan frequently expressed disapproval of the way President Barack Obama and the administration have handled foreign and domestic policies, and Biden accused Ryan of never stating what he and presidential candidate Mitt Romney would do differently.

Ken Fowkes, a member of the Calaveras County Democratic Central Committee believed Biden clearly dominated the debate. He said Paul Ryan did not have much substance to his responses and "pulled numbers out of thin air."

Calaveras County Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman, Sharon Romano, agreed that Ryan lacked accurate facts and said he used them to attack the Obama administration.

Ryan said unemployment has increased from 8.5 percent to 10 percent in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pa., since Obama took office, and unemployment is increasing the United States.

"You don't read the statistics," Biden rebutted. "That's not how it's going. It's going down."

Ryan also said that 23 million Americans are still struggling for work and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty.

"This is not what a real recovery looks like," he said.

The statements were in response to Raddatz asking the candidates if they could decrease unemployment to below 6 percent and how long it would take.

She said that, while United States unemployment fell below 8 percent in September for the first time in 43 months, the Obama administration projected it would fall below 6 percent by now.

Republicans in both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties said Biden showed disrespect for his challenger, particularly through facial expressions and interruptions.

"I think the way he acted will probably not be viewed by the American public as right or responsible or respectful," Tuolumne County republican Pam Slakey said.

Barbara Manning, chairwoman of the Calaveras County Republican Central Committee,watched the debate with a few other Republicans and said they all agreed that Ryan showed more control and came across as more knowledgeable than Biden.

"A good name for this would have been 'Joe Biden Unleashed' because we felt ... that the debate was out of control," she said.

Members of both parties expressed ill-feelings toward the moderator, saying that she did not have control over the debate.

"She let them override each other and I thought a moderator was supposed to avoid that," said Calaveras County Democratic Central Committee Secretary Shelley Lindgren.

Fowkes said Raddatz was better than Jim Lehrer, the moderator for last week's presidential debate, because she called the candidates out when they did not clearly answer questions.

Romano said Raddatz did an incredible job of keeping things on track. Some Republicans felt she showed a slant toward Biden by cutting off Ryan's responses.

Members of both parties said that most of the pertinent issues were addressed during the 90 minutes but Fowkes would have liked to hear the candidates discuss energy policy. Patricia Ryan was interested in their views regarding the U.S. Constitution.

Slakey, Manning and Romano all encouraged voters to do their own research so they can make educated decisions at the polls.

"Vote, don't sit on the sidelines … I really think it's important that each of us participate in the process," Romano said.

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The Union Democrat
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