Manzullo, Kinzinger get testy over ads and conservative ratings, disagree on Afghanistan

March 14, 2012

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(AP/M. Spencer Green)
U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (left) visits an assisted living center in Belvidere earlier this month.

Republican U.S. Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger are going after each other over who's more conservative and whose advertisements are more misleading.

MORE ON THIS RACE: Discussion on Tuesday's Afternoon Shift with Steve Edwards

WATCH THE DEBATE: Posted at WTTW's Chicago Tonight

In a debate Monday evening on WTTW public television, they also disagreed over the future of U.S. troops in Iraq, following the weekend killings of 16 Afghan civilians. An American soldier has been accused of the shootings.

Manzullo, first elected to Congress in 1992, touted ratings he received from certain conservative groups — ratings that were stronger than his opponent's.

"These organizations monitor the votes. And they say who's voting conservatively, who's voting liberally, and they put up the scores," Manzullo said.

Kinzinger, who's in his first term, shot back.

"That's what happens when you're in Washington for 20 years, is you begin to look at Washington groups to justify your existence being there," he said.

Sticks and stones

They later talked over each other while arguing about whose mail advertisements were more outrageous.

"This is your tabloid with Nancy Pelosi's [picture]," Manzullo said, unfolding a mail piece. "This is the one you put out that made my wife weep."

"Don, you've put out 10 mail pieces that are nothing but ... they don't talk about your record," Kinzinger said.

Afghan react

The two Republicans also disagreed over U.S. military plans for Afghanistan in light of last weekend's attack.

Kinzinger, a captain in the Air National Guard, went first. He said he does want the U.S. to eventually "back out" of Afghanistan, remaining only in a counter-terrorism role.

But he said, "I think if we react to every event on the ground with the call to just withdraw, we're going to be very devastated by what's left in that region."

Manzullo answered "absolutely" when asked if U.S. troops should get out faster than originally planned.

"Does the United States really belong in Afghanistan now? This war's been going on for 10 years, and we need to get out," he said.

The congressmen are running against each other in the GOP primary as a result of new district boundaries drawn by Illinois Democrats. The new 16th District forms a collar of sorts, circling many of the Chicago region's so-called "collar counties."