MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin sparred over their reactions to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their approach to Iran in their final debate Friday in the race to fill Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat.
Seated next to each other at a round table at the Marquette University Law School, Thompson and Baldwin — who polls show are in a dead heat to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl — forcefully disagreed with one another during the hour-long debate, especially over their recent campaign ads dealing with Sept. 11.
Thompson first raised the issue with an ad that began airing Tuesday blasting Baldwin's 2006 vote against a resolution honoring the victims. Baldwin voted nine other times for resolutions honoring the victims and worked on passing a bill providing money for health care for first responders.
"I am outraged that Tommy Thompson would question my patriotism," Baldwin said.
Thompson, who described being at ground zero in the days after the attacks in his role as U.S. health secretary under President George W. Bush, said he wasn't questioning Baldwin's patriotism.
"I questioned her judgment," he said.
Baldwin was one of 22 members of the U.S. House who voted against the 2006 resolution. She said at the time and during the campaign that she voted against it because it also included endorsements of Republican policies she opposed, including the Patriot Act.
Baldwin ran an ad this week in response saying Thompson personally profited from the attacks by making $3 million from a health care firm he led that scored a government contract to treat first responders.
"He has personally profited from 9/11 and now he is trying to politically profit from 9/11," she said during the debate.
Earlier on Friday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said it would be an embarrassment if Baldwin won, and praised Thompson's work as health secretary in the wake of the attacks.
"For Tammy Baldwin to attack him on anything related to Sept. 11 is so hypocritical, she should be ashamed of herself," Giuliani said.
In a conference call organized by the Baldwin campaign, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said Thompson's ad was a shameful misappropriation of a "sacred" memory in the nation's history. He said Thompson's decision to run the ad was a poor reflection on his character, and he called on Thompson to pull the spot.
Relatives of victims of the attacks and first responders also sent letters to Thompson on Friday asking him to remove his ad.