Vukmir, Baldwin trade barbs in Wisconsin US Senate race

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2018 file photo, Sen. Tammy Baldwin speaks to supporters in Janesville, Wis. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir told Democratic Sen. Baldwin on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, that "your lies are spiraling," as Baldwin and Democrats unleashed more attacks on Vukmir's record with the election less than five weeks away. (Angela Major /The Janesville Gazette via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir told Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Wednesday that “your lies are spiraling,” as Baldwin and Democrats unleashed more attacks on Vukmir’s record with the election less than five weeks away.

Baldwin faces Vukmir , a state senator, on Nov. 6. Polls have shown Baldwin with a lead as she seeks a second term. Both candidates are scheduled to meet Monday for the first of three debates ahead of the election.

Health care has been a major issue in the race. Vukmir wants to repeal and replace the national health care law, while Baldwin supports keeping it and is a co-signer of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” proposal. She has also supported universal health care.

“I truly believe that the direction that Sen. Baldwin wants to take us in will destroy health care as we know it,” Vukmir said at a Milwaukee Press Club and Rotary Club of Milwaukee event Tuesday.

“You must be confusing our positions,” Baldwin tweeted at Vukmir in response on Wednesday. “Because I’m not the one trying to undermine health care for 2 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, impose an age tax on seniors, and sell folks health care they can’t actually use.”

Vukmir responded : “Your lies are spiraling. … Your plan decimates Medicare for seniors, forces people to lose private insurance, and will cause provider shortages for rural WI. It’s time for you to come back to the private sector so you can better understand how the real world works.”

Democrats have been pointing to Vukmir’s record in the Legislature, saying she’s sided with insurance companies over individuals while opposing coverage for cochlear implants, mental health care and substance abuse treatments.

Vukmir argues her record has been distorted.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Democratic Party on Wednesday tried to undermine Vukmir’s touting of her work as a member of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s task force on opioid and heroin abuse. Vukmir was named a member of the panel when it was created in 2016, but the Democratic Party said a review of video and audio recordings found Vukmir attended only three of 10 meetings in person. In two others she phoned in at the beginning but did not participate, the party said.

“Leah Vukmir glaringly failed to show up to work,” said Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning.

Vukmir’s campaign responded by raising concerns with Baldwin’s attendance at Senate committee hearings. Both Vukmir, and a conservative group that ran an ad against Baldwin earlier this year, noted that she missed more than 70 percent meetings of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Baldwin had a 100 percent voting record on the committee, but senators do not have to be physically present to have a vote recorded.

Also Wednesday, Baldwin released an ad hitting Vukmir for not releasing public records that were related to her work as a state senator for the conservative group the American Legislative Exchange Council, while charging taxpayers $15,000 to defend her from a lawsuit seeking the records.

Vukmir settled the case before trial and handed over the records.

Vukmir’s campaign manager Jess Ward did not directly address the issue in the Baldwin ad, instead saying that because Congress is immune from open records requests, Baldwin’s “cover-up surrounding the opioid crisis at the Tomah VA even worse.”

There is no evidence that Baldwin took steps to cover up what was happening at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A Senate committee that investigated it determined she had not engaged in a cover up.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Vukmir settled the open records case before trial.

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