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Republican Senate candidates spar over death penalty and integrity during debate

Screenshot / Off the Record

Two Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate squared off on Friday. During a debate on WKAR-TV’s Off the Record, Sandy Pensler and John James both said they were the best choice to take on incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow, though the candidates mostly focused on each other – not Stabenow – during the debate.

Pensler and James sharply disagreed on the issue of capital punishment. Pensler said he’s okay with the death penalty in extreme cases. But James said it disproportionately affects the poor.

“But the fact of the matter is that I believe that in this country we have to do better and revenge killings, that’s not what we’re about,” said James.

The candidates also sparred over who has the most conservative credentials. Multiple times, they questioned how pro-life and supportive of President Donald Trump the other is. During a heated exchange, Pensler and James attacked each other’s integrity. The fight started when James claimed Pensler said President Donald Trump speaks like a 4th grader, but Pensler said James took the statements out of context.

“Yeah I think it’s more phony John James,” said Pensler. “I was speaking and complementing the president on speaking succinctly and simply.”

Pensler and James are both businessmen, and they did manage to find some things they agree on. Both said a person should not be fired for their sexual identity and neither would abolish labor unions.

So far, this is the only scheduled, televised debate ahead of the August 7 primary.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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