Democrat Jim Martin assailed Republican Saxby Chambliss for a spot suggesting he was responsible for the death of children in state care when he headed the Georgia agency overseeing social services programs.
"This is a personal attack on me. It's inaccurate," Mr. Martin said, suggesting the techniques were similar to the ones Mr. Chambliss used six years ago against in a bitter race against Sen. Max Cleland.
Mr. Chambliss defended the spot as a statement on Mr. Martin's leadership. Asked whether Mr. Martin was to blame for the deaths, Mr. Chambliss replied, "Absolutely not. But it's an issue of leadership. What happened was a terrible tragedy and it happened under his watch."
Mr. Chambliss fired back, saying Mr. Martin should prevail upon Democratic leaders in Washington to stop running a pair of new ads he says misrepresent the "fair tax," which he supports. The plan would create a national sales tax and erase the income tax.
"He can say, 'I deplore this,'" Mr. Chambliss said. "It's wrong. It's misleading, and I would ask that he do that."
Mr. Martin demurred, saying federal election law forbids him from coordinating activities with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is spending more than $500,000 to air the spots in Georgia. He said the spots are "factually accurate" but take the attention off faulty "Saxby economics" that have helped contribute to the nation's financial woes.
Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley called the bickering "sad."
"I'd like to stick to the issues," he said.
Mr. Buckley returned to his signature issue: reining in out-of-control spending. He said entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security must be cut to keep the nation's economy afloat.
"You're destroying the future of my kids and it's wrong," Mr. Buckley scolded Mr. Chambliss.
Mr. Martin and Mr. Chambliss took opportunities to distance themselves from their party leaders. Mr. Chambliss said he has disagreed with President Bush on the farm bill and came to part ways with him on an immigration measure. Mr. Martin said he doesn't agree with Barack Obama's comment that tax cuts for the wealthy would redistribute wealth.