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7th District Candidates Trade Personal, Political Barbs

In a debate sponsored by two local news organizations, Republican candidate Rick O’Donnell said Deana Perlmutter, who manages the Denver office of international lobbying group Dutko Worldwide and whose clients include Sprint and the National Food Processors Association, according to the Denver Post, may try to lobby agencies overseen by Perlmutter if he is elected.

“[T]he question is, on the key issues in Congress, who are you going to represent? The clients putting money in your pocketbook or the citizens of the 7th Congressional District?” O’Donnell asked.

O’Donnell’s charges came just two days after a Survey USA poll, conducted on behalf of Colorado’s 9News, showed him lagging 17 points behind Perlmutter in the polls.

The poll surveyed 482 likely voters in the 7th District who were nearly evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats and independents, and found that 54 percent support Perlmutter while 37 percent support O’Donnell. Six percent of voters remained undecided. The margin of error was 4.5 percent.

A similar poll taken by the same agency in August showed the two candidates running neck and neck.

Republican officials credited the jump in Perlmutter’s lead to the name recognition he received during his highly publicized primary race, and to Perlmutter’s recent attacks on O’Donnell’s Social Security record, according to the Rocky Mountain News

O’Donnell has previously called for the elimination of Social Security, but has since changed his position saying the program needs an overhaul.

The days leading up to Thursday’s debate also saw shots coming from both candidates.

O’Donnell has accused his opponent of overstating a plan by the state to store low-level radioactive waste at a facility in Adams County, Colo. While O’Donnell claims the waste is harmless, Perlmutter says the plan amounts to a nuclear waste dump, the Denver Post reported.

In return, Perlmutter accuses O’Donnell of rubber stamping Bush administration policies, particularly over the war in Iraq. He has asked for O’Donnell to join him in calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Despite the most recent poll, the race for Colorado’s 7th District seat, formerly held by Republican Bob Beauprez who is stepping down to run for governor, is considered one of the most hotly contested in the nation. The district is home to an evenly divided number of Democrats and Republicans.