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U.S. Senate candidates debate, differ on racism, privilege

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV) - On Thursday, in their final, televised debate, Republican Senator Joni Ernst, and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield, clashed on a number of issues as each tried to make their closing argument to Iowa voters.

For the first time, the two candidates did not actually face each other in Thursday night's debate. They debated remotely as Ernst was in Washington for the final day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation hearing. To make sure no candidate had an advantage, Greenfield also appeared remotely from Altoona, Iowa.

The two differed on health care. Ernst criticized Greenfield's plan for public health care.

"What we don't want to see is putting a bureaucrat between our physicians and patients," said Sen. Joni Ernst, (R) U.S. Senate Candidate. "And, again, that public option is a truck stop on the road to a single-payer system, and we certainly don't need that."

Greenfield says creating a public option would create that competition in the market.

"What I support is strengthening and expanding the Affordable Care Act," said Theresa Greenfield, (D) U.S. Senate Candidate. "We've got a lot of tools in our toolbox. And then creating a public option. That will create competition in the marketplace and level that playing field to make sure all Iowans have access to high-quality, affordable coverage."

Both differed on minimum wage as well. Ernst would leave it up to states.

"I do believe it is a local issue, and there's no reason that it could not be addressed by the state, local, or city government," said Ernst.

Greenfield says it's important to invest to make sure Iowans have the opportunity to earn a living wage.

"Making sure we invest-- like Republican Governor Bob Ray did-- in debt-free community colleges, trade schools, and technical schools," said Greenfield.

On social justice, they were asked about the president's move to end racial sensitivity training in federal agencies saying ideas like "white privilege" are racist. But, have the candidates themselves ever benefitted from "white privilege?"

"I don't know if I benefitted from that, but certainly it's possible that it exists out there," said Ernst.

Theresa Greenfield said "absolutely." She recounted the Social Security benefits she, and her child, received after her first husband's death.

"I'm not convinced that that system would have worked for a young, widowed black woman with a 13-month-old, and another one on the way," Greenfield said.

In answer to another question, Ernst was asked if she believed "systemic racism" exists.

"No, I don't," Ernst said. "I do believe that you will find racist individuals in those systems, but I don't believe that entire systems of people, of people, are racist."

if you aren't registered to vote in Iowa, you still have time. Oct. 24 is the deadline to register online, by mail, and in person.

Matt Breen

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