One of the sharpest exchanges between the candidates came over a 2008 letter Hutchinson wrote to the senate, supporting Eric Holder's nomination for U.S. attorney general Holder, has become a lightning rod for critics of president Obama's administration.
Coleman said, "Arkansans feel to be extremely concerned and confused that you would make such an endorsement."
Hutchinson said, "Let me tell you it was a huge political mistake but more importantly the job that Eric Holder has done has been totally unacceptable."
As for Arkansas' private option health law, Coleman said proudly that he's been a consistent opponent of the plan. Hutchinson also expressed concerns about future cost, but made a point to say he's willing to give it a chance to succeed.
Two other major topics of discussion during the debate were education and taxes. Both Hutchinson and Coleman shared education plans and called for tax cuts.
University of Arkansas political science professor, Dr. Janine Parry, believes tax plans should be a primary concern for Northwest Arkansas voters.
Parry said, "Northwest Arkansas certainly is growing individually and as a broader economy. Tax rates, lower or higher, would be influenced by that heavily. We've been a good place for a lot of business growth in this area and so their plans are something that should be seriously considered by viewers."
"The main difference between these two candidates on any policy area is that Coleman is the low tax, classic conservative where as Hutchinson is also a low tax conservative compared to a democrat in the race, but his effort is to offer a more balanced approach between taxes and services."
Yet, Parry said education is also a central topic of debate. She said it's the single largest expenditure state and local governments make any given year.
Parry said, "We have several institutions of higher education and of course the biggest one in the state is the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, so their visions for four-year verses two-year for higher education verses K-12, that has big potential effects for folks around here."
Both candidates are interested in making education adjustments. Hutchinson wants to see computer-based learning in the classroom, while Coleman is putting his focus on two-year degree programs.
Parry said, "Coleman commented that he was into bringing 'shop back into schools' as opposed to reading, writing and arithmetic. The heavy emphasis on standardized testing was implied there. Asa Hutchinson didn't really disagree with that approach I think it was just a matter of emphasis between the two candidates."
Parry said folks can look at Saturday's debate as a preview of what we can expect in November. "Although it was quite civil, there was an effort by each candidate to saddle the other with being too attached to the federal government, too attached to the unpopular Obama administration--unpopular in Arkansas in particular."
No democratic debates were held on Saturday.
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