The fourth face-to-face debate between Republican Congressman Steve King and Christie Vilsack, his Democratic challenger, was held tonight and King opened with a subtle attack on Vilsack, who moved to Ames to run in the new fourth congressional district.

“I live here. My roots are here,” King said. “They’re going to stay here, whatever happens in November.”

Later, King said he wanted to know whether Vilsack and her husband — former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture — supported a particular bill, prompting Christie Vilsack to make this declaration: “Congressman King, you’re running against me, not against my husband.”

Midway through the hour-long event the two quarreled over the languishing Farm Bill as they have in their three previous debates.

“I’m sitting in a position where I expect to be on the conference committee and we’ll have a voice of Iowa there when we hammer the last bill out,” King said.

Vilsack replied: “I don’t think that you’re going to be on a conference committee. You haven’t shown leadership in other situations either and I don’t think you’re going to show leadership here.”

Vilsack suggested there was a reason King was the only member of Iowa’s congressional delegation who did not sign a petition calling for a vote in the House on the Farm Bill.

“I think there are $136,000 reasons why he didn’t do that and those are the dollars that he is receiving from the Club for Growth,” Vilsack said.

The Club for Growth issued a statement saying support of that petition would “count heavily as anti-growth” on the group’s “congressional scorecard.” King immediately shot back by criticizing the way Vilsack’s husband is running the USDA’s food stamp program.

“The USDA has been spending millions of dollars advertising food stamps. They’ve gone from 19 million people on food stamps a few years ago to 47 million today,” King said. “That’s the bigger part of the argument going on in congress and that is hurting our agriculture.”

The debate was held in Orange City, on the campus of Northwestern College. It was sponsored by KTIV TV in Sioux City.