Gillibrand, DioGuardi Square Off in First Debate of Senate Campaign

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From health care, to tax cuts, to foreign policy, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and her Republican challenger, Joe DioGuardi, found little to agree on in their first debate of the campaign, at WABC-TV's studios on Friday afternoon.

On the issue of health care, Gillibrand said the bill she helped pass last year is a strong one. But she said she's concerned about insurance companies raising premiums before the changes kick in. "It doesn't really start until 2014, and I will tell you many insurers have raised their rates," Gillibrand said. "I want a full investigation."

DioGuardi, a former Congressman from Westchester, said the health care law should be repealed and restructured to reign in spending. "The whole purpose of health care reform should have been to reduce the cost of health care," he said. "It did not." DioGuardi also called for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts, which are set to expire early next year. Gillibrand said she'd support an extension for those who earn under $250,000 a year, but not for top earners.

Immigration reform was among the issues that drew sharp contrasts between Gillibrand and DioGuardi. DioGuardi said he supports legal immigration. "But it seems to me right now that I would not look to reform anything until we looked at the whole picture and until we shut down the borders," he said. "We cannot allow porous borders in America."

But Gillibrand said the time is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform. She defended her previous opposition to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to issue government IDs to undocumented immigrants, saying it's an issue best addressed on the federal level. "That is something I would certainly look into, and we want to make sure that folks have the ability to get an ID," Gillibrand said. "But it's best done in a comprehensive bill because these are all the issues that we need to actually address."

Gun control was also among the issues tackled. DioGuardi said Gillibrand's shift toward more gun control shows she's inconsistent. The Democrat said she's now focused on keeping illegal guns out of cities.

You can hear the full debate on AM 820 WNYC on Sunday night, October 17 at 9 p.m.