Senate candidates debate in Waukesha Wednesday night

WAUKESHA -- Republican candidates vying for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat debated in Waukesha - one of Wisconsin's most conservative counties, Wednesday night, April 11th. Candidates Jeff Fitzgerald, Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann and newcomer Kip Smith appeared at Wednesday's debate. Tommy Thompson was absent from Wednesday night's debate.

Thompson was invited, but could not attend because of a previous engagement. Thompson's campaign issued the following statement Wednesday: "Thompson is unable to attend the debate on April 11th due to a long-standing prior commitment. It is early in the campaign, however, and we expect Thompson to join future debates."

Fitzgerald said the actions Republicans have taken in the last year need to be replicated in Washington. "We tried to get people back to work in Wisconsin. How did we do that? We did that through regulatory reform, taxation reform, litigation reform," Fitzgerald said.

Neumann said he's the most conservative candidate. "It's important to define what that means. A conservative believes in faith, family and country. It's the most important things in their lives, and I do," Neumann said.

Kip Smith is a physical therapist from Rhinelander, and the least known of the candidates. "We need to rebuild our economy through free markets, less regulation and giving tax breaks to our small businesses as well as our large communities," Smith said.

Hovde has been seen in TV ads recently, talking about the country's debt. "I am so profoundly concerned about the direction our country is heading. If we continue down this path, we will end up in a financial collapse," Hovde said.

The men seemed to agree on a lot of issues Wednesday night, like cutting federal spending and repealing health care reforms. Where they seem to differ is regarding what kind of candidate they think voters want to see, and whether that person is a seasoned politician or a newcomer.

Tammy Baldwin is the only Democrat in the race.

The Republican primary is set for August 14th.