The issue of climate change emerged as a new wrinkle in the 6th Congressional District race during a WABE debate Thursday.
“Look, I think that clearly there have been changes in the climate. I am not a scientist, so I read all of that and take it all in,” said Republican Karen Handel. “What I am set on is making sure we do the right thing in the right way.”
“Neither of us are scientists. That’s why we have scientists,” Jon Ossoff, Handel’s Democratic opponent, responded. “Ninety-seven percent of scientists as well as the military and the intelligence community agree that climate change is a threat to our security and prosperity and that it’s driven in part by human activity.”
They sparred on whether American businesses were disadvantaged by the deal, but when Ossoff pressed Handel to say whether she believes humans contribute to climate change, she did not answer.
Ossoff continued to represent himself as an “independent voice,” taking policy stances that deviated from some typically liberal proposals. He said a single payer health care system has no chance in the current congress and that he would not support raising income taxes.
Handel argued once again that 6th District race is not about the president. Still, some of her answers tracked closely with President Donald Trump’s language of “bad deals” on both the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.
“The Paris accord was a very bad deal for America and Americans,” said Handel, adding that businesses were being hurt by the agreement.
Other statements by Handel seemed aimed at fending off previous Ossoff attacks about being a GOP rubber stamp.
“I have built my career on facing down and staring down the status quo. I have never been a go-along to get-along,” said Handel.
Meanwhile, Ossoff continued to push his campaign mantra. “I will be a fresh, independent voice for this district,” he said in response to a question about a potential need for further Democratic party help in rapidly approaching midterms he would face if elected.
Ossoff created multiple opportunities to question Handel again on her record at Susan G Komen. She resigned as vice president from the breast cancer non-profit in the face of backlash from the organization’s decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
The dispute was carried over from an earlier debate this week, with Handel asserting the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t directly provide mammograms, while Ossoff pointed to the hundreds of thousands of breast cancer screenings—a separate diagnostic service—the organization does offer.
Handel has said the decision was a financial one, based on Planned Parenthood’s lack of mammogram offerings.
“I think you should take responsibility for what you did and explain to the people of the 6th District why you thought it was appropriate to impose your own views on women in Georgia and across the state,” said Ossoff, hinting at her belief that abortions should be illegal.
Handel said she supports more funding for community health centers to pick up the slack of serving poor women if Planned Parenthood is defunded. Those health centers could be impacted by cuts to Medicaid under the GOP health plan, provide fewer contraceptive services than Planned Parenthood, and don’t offer abortions.
One social media moment from the debate came as the candidates gave closing statements. Handel, after calling her opponent “fake and deceptive,” said the following: “I have brought tremendous experience and have tremendous tentacles and commitment to this community.”
Many cephalopod-related gifs followed on Twitter.