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Sep 9, 2010 1:18 AM by Jim Hummel

Vitter and Melancon go Head-to-Head in Acadiana

Senator David Vitter and Representative Charlie Melancon faced off Wednesday night at Crowley's historic "Grand Opera House of the South." The event was sponsored by the Crowley Chamber of Commerce and was advertised as a "candidate forum," but what it was, was in itself debated by both Vitter and Melancon before either of them even stepped inside.

"I wish we would be having debates, instead of controlled questions," said Melancon.

In an e-mail sent out Wednesday, Melancon's campaign contends that Senator Vitter has not responded to a challenge of five, live televised town hall-style debates.

"Well, we debated last night," said Vitter, referring to an event put on Tuesday night in New Orleans by the Alliance for Good Government. "Maybe [Melancon] is a little disappointed I received that group's endorsement instead of him."

The rivalry continued once the candidate forum began. The event was moderated by former Crowley Mayor Isabella Delahoussaye. Both Vitter and Melancon were allowed five minutes for opening statements, then each were asked the same three questions, and given three minutes to respond.

"Congressman Melancon strongly endorsed Barack Obama for president," said Vitter during his opening statements. In fact, during his opening remarks, Vitter mentioned the president's name at least 10 times, apparently looking to align his democratic opponent with the current administration.

"[Melancon] voted for and helped pass the Obama budget that takes our already high level of debt and doubles it in five years and triples it in 10 years," said Vitter.

Melancon fired back, accusing Vitter of making the race about party lines, red versus blue.

"Let me tell you, I'm Charlie Melancon, I'm running for senate, if you want to vote against the president, you get to in 2 years," Melancon told the crowd. "This is between the two people that are standing up here, this is not about a party, I have a 55% voting record among my party, my party doesn't like my voting record."

Delahoussaye then asked the candidates questions on health care, taxes and stimulus spending. Vitter and Melancon sparred on those topics for about half-an-hour, while at the same time trying to set themselves apart from one another.

"You work with whomever, Republicans, Democrats, it doesn't matter who it is, you sit down and try to make the best piece of legislation you can," said Melancon.

"I believe in an America where private sector entrepreneurship, job creation, innovation is the engine that will once again make our children's future even brighter than ours," said Vitter.

Jim Hummel

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