Democratic Senate Candidate Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Manchin threatens 'zero' spending in blowup with Sanders: reports MORE pledged Wednesday to be an independent voice for Delaware in the Senate during a debate with Republican Christine O'Donnell.
Coons distanced himself from Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.), telling voters, "I'm nobody's pet."
The comment was a reference to Reid's calling him his "pet" in an interview with The Hill.
"I don't know why Harry Reid said that," Coons said during a debate hosted by CNN Wednesday. "I'm nobody's pet. I'm going to be a bulldog for Delaware."
The two candidates sparred in what was, at times, a contentious exchange.
Coons labeled some of O'Donnell's positions too "extreme" for Delaware and accused the Republican of misrepresenting his record on taxes as New Castle County Executive. O'Donnell also referenced an article Coons wrote when he was in college and suggested the Democrat holds "Marxist" beliefs.
"My opponent has recently said that it was studying under a Marxist professor that made him become a Democrat," said O'Donnell. "So when you look at his position on things like raising taxes, which is one of the tenets of Marxism, not supporting eliminating the death tax, which is a tenet of Marxism. I would argue that there are more people who support my Catholic faith than his Marxist beliefs."
In response Coons encouraged voters to read the article he penned where he said he jokingly described himself as "a bearded Marxist."
"I have not, nor have I ever been anything but a clean shaven capitalist," said Coons.
O'Donnell also declined to address her views on evolution when asked about past comments labeling evolution a "myth." O'Donnell said her views on evolution are "irrelevant" to her candidacy and said talking about evolution in schools is a decision that should be left up to local school districts.
Coons hit O'Donnell's experience Wednesday, too, saying, "Ms. O'Donnell has experience at running for office, but not really running anything."
The candidates were also pressed on what recent Supreme Court decisions they disagree with. Coons singled out the Citizen's United decision, which opened the door to corporate and union spending on elections. O'Donnell was unable to name a recent decision she takes issue with, but said, "I'll put it up on my website, I promise you."
Recent polls in the race have Coons up by double digits over O'Donnell. President Obama and Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act: a bill long overdue MORE will be in the state Friday to headline a fundraiser and campaign rally for Coons.
Watch video of their exchange over evolution and O'Donnell's characterization of Coons as holding "Marxist beliefs" below.