Broun, Fleming collide over conservatism, past

ATLANTA --- The thrust and parry between U.S. Rep. Paul Broun and challenger Barry Fleming swirled around who is the more conservative candidate, even through the lens of personal -- and perhaps painful -- questions about the incumbent's past in a debate between the 10th congressional district candidates Wednesday night.

Mr. Broun, R-Athens, and Mr. Fleming, R-Harlem, squared off in a forum held at Georgia Public Broadcasting and organized by the Atlanta Press Club.

Mr. Fleming, who is leaving his post in the General Assembly to challenge the first-term congressman in the July 15 Republican primary, dredged up Mr. Broun's decades-old bankruptcy and contempt-of-court charges for failure to pay alimony as signs of bad judgement.

"How can you be a voice for fiscal conservatism with a past like that?" Mr. Fleming asked.

A bristling Mr. Broun fired back to say the bankruptcy was the result of a business failure, and then questioned Mr. Fleming's attacks on bills he has voted against in Congress, including one against a bill to require Internet service providers to monitor their subscribers' usage for child pornography. Mr. Broun said bills he voted against were sponsored by highly liberal members of Congress, and threw doubt on the conservative high ground Mr. Fleming attempted to attack him from.

Mr. Fleming also accused Mr. Broun of trying to gain Democratic votes via a changed position on gay marriage. Mr. Broun contends his position didn't change, only whether the ban should be first pushed on the state or federal level.

Mr. Broun, a doctor by trade, rolled through a list of socially and fiscally conservative organizations that have endorsed his candidacy as his evidence that he is the stronger and more popular conservative candidate.