BOISE - Two candidates vying to represent Idaho in the U.S. House of Representatives took shots at each other in a spirited debate Monday night.
KTVB hosted the debate between incumbent Republican Raul Labrador and Democratic challenger James Piotrowski.
The candidates gave their perspectives on a wide range of topics, including immigration reform, religious freedom, land use and federal spending.
At one point during the debate, the candidates discussed gridlock in Congress, with each claiming they were better suited to get things done in Washington.
"Have you ever reached a compromise, Mr. Labrador?" Piotrowski asked. "Because you walked away from immigration reform. You haven't gotten anything done on criminal justice reform."
"Yes we have," Labrador responded.
"No you haven't," replied Piotrowski. "You haven't passed a bill, sir. You haven't passed a bill."
Labrador shot back that he is working on a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, but that others in the House are blocking reform measures.
"We have a number of people in the House, both Republicans and Democrats that do not want criminal justice reform," Labrador said. "It's not passing not because of me. We have actually done many things to work on this issue."
The two also sparred over Labrador’s religious freedom bill.
“The bill prevents the federal government from discriminating against churches and religious institutions that believe in traditional marriage,” Labrador said.
Labrador called for Piotrowski to re-read the bill.
“He says that he read the bill," the congressman said.
“And I have sir,” responded Piotrowski.
“But you don’t know how to read obviously,” Labrador rebuffed.
“Excuse me sir, you just accused me of not being able to read,” Piotrowski exclaimed. "That’s not exactly the conduct we want of a member of Congress, sir.”
“I’ll tell you what the bill says," Labrador said. “My bill expressly excludes employees acting within the scope of their employment and does not permit federal employees to refuse services or benefits.”
“The viewers can look it up online," Piotrowski fired back.
“I’m starting to doubt whether he knows how to read legislation,” Labrador concluded.
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Labrador was asked if he was considering a run for Governor in 2018.
“I have not made a decision about running for Governor," he said. "I am going to decide after this election. My goal right not is to win this election so I can represent the people of Idaho."
Piotrowski, meanwhile, says his political aspirations are simply to serve Idaho's 1st Congressional District.
“This is my first run, it is somewhat audacious I know, for a person’s first attempt at political office to be a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives,” he said. “I believe that my community needs me, I believe that my nation needs me or someone like me."
Piotrowski, a first-time candidate, is a lawyer in Boise specializing in constitutional law, labor law, and disability rights. He lives in Eagle with his wife and two children.
Labrador, who is in his third term as representative for the 1st District, served in the Idaho Legislature before being elected to Congress in 2010. He serves on the Natural Resources and Judiciary committees, and lives in Eagle with his wife and five children.
The hour-long debate was moderated by KTVB's Dee Sarton and KTVB political analyst Jim Weatherby.
The debate will re-air on KTVB/KTFT on Tuesday, October 18 from 9 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, November 5 from 7 to 8 p.m. It will also replay on Idaho's Very Own 24/7 Saturday, October 22 and Saturday, October 29 from 8 to 9 p.m.