Three candidates for the 15th congressional district seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce debated last Friday, and disagreed on, a range of economic and business issues.

Three candidates for the 15th congressional district seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce debated last Friday, and disagreed on, a range of economic and business issues.

Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, Republican Steve Stivers and Independent Don Elijah Eckhart answered questions during a debate sponsored by a handful of chambers of commerce in the 15th district.

One topic with little common ground among the candidates revolved around the recent bailouts of several large financial institutions.

Kilroy supported the steps taken by the federal government to prevent the failing of mortgage strongholds Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as other recent buyouts. Those measures, Kilroy said, were necessary to keep the crisis of Wall Street from spreading to other sectors of the economy.

"I think it was important that the government took some action to provide some stability," Kilroy said. "We need to get our economic ship righted."

Kilroy did oppose what she called "golden parachutes" for CEOs of failing companies, who she said don't see the consequences when they allow their companies to fail.

If elected, Kilroy said she would like to see a congressional review of the failing financial institutions.

Stivers also backed the federal bailout of government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but said he opposes the bailout of other companies, saying if the companies were too large to allow to fail, they were likely too large to allow competitors to find their way in the market.

"It's hard to compete with companies that are too big to fail," Stivers said.

To deal with the credit crisis, Stivers said Congress needs to look at "major reform" to outdated laws to give government regulators the tools they need in dealing with the financial industry.

Eckhart, however, said he was "shocked" that the federal government would bail out private companies.

"I do not like the fact that tax dollars are put at risk and help to fund private ventures," Eckhart said. "The investors in those companies knew what they were investing in."

Health care costs also were a big issue with the approximately 200 businesspeople who attended the debate.

The candidates agreed that prevention care should be part of fixing the health care system, but disagreed on the best way to lower costs.

Stivers said as a federal legislator, he would like to give insurance companies the ability to compete across state lines and also to allow small businesses to band together to buy shared insurance policies to lower costs.

"I think the first thing we need to do is reinvent the system," Stivers said. "More competition could mean lower costs and better products."

In Congress, Kilroy said she would consider all of the proposed plans for reforming the health care system.

"I would like to see everyone have and be able to afford the same kind of health care members of Congress get," she said.

Eckhart blamed high health care costs on unnecessary medical tests and excessive lawsuits. He said members of Congress need to take health care reform seriously.

"Perhaps members of Congress should lower their level of care until all people have that level of care," Eckhart said.

Also during the debate, Stivers said he has taken a pledge that he will not support new taxes and favors offshore drilling to reduce dependency on foreign oil and as a way of securing funding for research and development of alternative energy sources.

When asked about the possibility of increasing taxes, Kilroy said the government needs to focus on the economy and said she would look at ways to lower unemployment, improve the value of the dollar and eliminate the deficit. She also said she supports offshore drilling.

Eckhart said he favors lowering taxes and said he would do so by taking his experience in fiscal management to Congress. Money can be saved without cutting programs, Eckhart said, by cutting costs and increasing the efficiency of governmental operations.