Topeka U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., and Democratic challenger Nancy Boyda displayed wide differences on major issues Tuesday and got into an argument over one that occurred more than 30 years ago -- the Vietnam War.
During a live debate broadcast on KMAJ 1440-AM, Boyda mentioned that Ryun received a 4-F deferment during the conflict, to which Ryun shot back, "This is getting personal."
The two are vying to represent the 2nd Congressional District, which includes western Lawrence.
Ryun, a former Olympic runner and world-record miler, later said he was drafted in 1970 during the war, reported for his physical but was rejected by the military because he suffered serious hearing loss from a childhood bout with the measles.
Boyda, of Topeka, later apologized for bringing up Ryun's military deferment but continued to pound him on the issue of life insurance sales on military bases.
Reports of unscrupulous insurance and financial services sales to unsuspecting soldiers prompted the Pentagon last year to propose tougher regulations.
But Ryun and two other members of the House Armed Services Committee wrote letters to the Pentagon seeking to stop those efforts. Insurance lobbyists also worked against the proposed rule changes, according to reports.
"There was never any concern mentioned for our soldiers," in those letters, Boyda said.
But Ryun said Boyda's comments were a "total misrepresentation." Ryun said the military could have barred the salesmen who were using improper sales tactics without any change in regulations.
Boyda and Ryun clashed repeatedly during the hourlong session that included questions from radio listeners.
On health insurance, Ryun said he supported allowing people to open special health savings accounts, contributions to which would be tax-deductible.
But Boyda said that would do little to help the 280,000 Kansans who were uninsured.
On education, Ryun said he believed the federal government was providing enough money to the states, but Boyda said the federal No Child Left Behind law was hurting schools more than helping them.
On Social Security, Boyda said she opposed any proposal to privatize the system, while Ryun said he was studying various ideas, including allowing workers to set up personal savings accounts. Boyda said that was just another way of saying he supported privatization.
The two also were on opposite sides on the issues of assault weapons and school vouchers.
Ryun said he opposed the ban on assault weapons, which recently expired. Boyda said she had supported it.
On vouchers, Ryun said he opposed using tax dollars for vouchers to go to private schools, but Boyda, who opposes vouchers, said Ryun made votes in Congress supporting such proposals.
The two will face off for another debate that will be broadcast from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday on KSNT-TV, Channel 8, and will be replayed at 3 p.m. Sunday on KTWU, Channel 11.
Boyda and Ryun will be featured in a 6News candidate forum that first will be aired at 8 p.m. today and then repeated five times before the Nov. 2 election.