(CNN) – They didn’t actually throw sticks and stones, but a congressional debate in Minnesota Thursday was every bit as schoolyard.
It didn't take long for the showdown to turn ugly with accusations flying over who was the bigger liar and jabs escalating into a fight over the two candidates' respective divorces.
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Nine minutes into the radio debate, incumbent Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat, sounded off on his Republican challenger, charging him with misstating the congressman's tenure on a House committee.
"You want to talk about who's a liar? You're the liar. You lie all the time," Ellison said to his opponent, Chris Fields.
The moderator quickly jumped in to break up the sparring, but three minutes later, they were at it again–this time, over tax returns.
Not long after that, the conversation turned to deficit reduction and tax cut proposals. Ellison took issue with his opponent's claims about a bill Ellison voted for in Congress.
"That's ridiculous, that's another bold-faced lie. It amazes me that you could sit here with a straight face," Ellison said in defense. "I'm not going to deal with you because you're just silly–really."
More than half an hour into the debate, however, the exchange got more personal. Fields faulted Ellison for being in the pocket of Washington lobbyists, while Ellison accused Fields of not paying his campaign vendors.
"If you want to talk about nasty business, let's talk about–" Fields said, before being interrupted by the moderator, who changed the topic to women's issues.
The conversation waded back into their personal coffers when Fields accused the congressman of paying a contractor to dig into Fields' divorce.
"What they found was a statement that my ex-wife had never given me, and she issued a statement saying 'hey it was a deeply troubling period," Fields said.
Ellison jumped in, saying "You're real stupid for bringing up your domestic violence allegation–I wasn't going to say a thing about it."
Hitting back, Fields denied the allegation and pounced on Ellison's own marriage history.
"You know what. If you want to talk about divorce, talk about your own," he said, charging that Ellison had been skimpy on child support.
Ellison replied: "You are a lowlife scumbag. You are a lowlife scumbag...You are a gutter dweller."
As the argument continued to boil, Ellison at one point said his daughter was sitting in the other room and that he was "using a lot of self-control."
During the hour-long debate, the moderator went to commercial twice to break up the squabbling. Ellison, a three-term congressman, is fighting to keep his seat representing Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, which includes the Minneapolis area and surrounding suburbs.
After the event, Ellison released a statement, saying he became defensive in part because of his daughter's presence at the radio station.
"In response to my opponent's false statement, I made an uncivil reference to him. I should not have done so. I acted beneath my personal standard as a public official, and I apologize...His untrue reference to the terms of my divorce was over the line, but my comment to him was over the line too. His tactics are no excuse for my departure from civility. I will not allow this to happen again, and I regret my action," he said.
Fields also put out a response:
"While I cannot apologize for Congressman Ellison's violent outbursts, I do believe the voters of the Fifth Congressional District are entitled to a Representative who more accurately reflects their values of people working together regardless of their background or political beliefs."