The Democratic nominee in Kansas' 1st Congressional District described the Republican front-runner Monday night as "radical" and "extreme" in his conservative views as the two of them sparred over health care and immigration.


The Democratic nominee in Kansas' 1st Congressional District described the Republican front-runner Monday night as "radical" and "extreme" in his conservative views as the two of them sparred over health care and immigration.

GOP nominee Tim Huelskamp sought to counter Democrat Alan Jilka's criticism by linking Jilka to President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats who control Congress. Huelskamp's toughest attacks came on health care, after Jilka said he would have voted for the new federal law championed by Obama, though Jilka also saw it as "a work in progress."

The two also disagreed sharply on immigration during the debate at Emporia State University before an audience of about 300 people. Huelskamp accused Jilka of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants, and Jilka said the Republican just doesn't understand the issue.

Huelskamp, a state senator from Fowler, is favored to win the seat for the sprawling, rural and heavily GOP 1st District, which covers western and central Kansas. Jilka, a former Salina mayor, is trying to appeal to Republican moderates uneasy about Huelskamp's record as one of the Legislature's most conservative members.

Jilka suggested Huelskamp is ducking debates and prefers formats that don't allow the Democrat to rebut Huelskamp's statements or question him. The only other joint appearance planned before the general election is Oct. 21 in Salina.

The Democrat noted that Huelskamp didn't vote for state transportation programs in 1999 and this year, received a zero rating from the Kansas Association of School Boards and was kicked off the state Senate's budget-writing Ways and Means Committee in 2003 in a dispute with less conservative GOP leaders.