Seven of the 10 candidates in April's Republican primary election for the U.S. Senate spent much of a debate today agreeing on some basic political principals:

They won't raise taxes but might close tax law loopholes; they want to outlaw abortion and would not support for the federal bench an attorney who didn't agree with that; they'll never allow limits on gun ownership and think a gun license from one state should apply to all states.

But it was in the personal stories that a few set themselves apart in a crowded field. When asked of the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was appropriate after a child sex abuse scandal rocked his program, the candidates all agreed. 

"I am a victim of sexual abuse as a child," said David Christian, 63, a Bucks County businessman and Vietnam War veteran, describing how the abuse at age seven led to three grand jury investigations. "At that time, the victims were considered the bad guys." 

Robert Alan Mansfield, an Iraq War veteran from Philadelphia, seemed to also suggest a childhood experience factored into his answer. "This is personal to me as well," he said. "I don't want to get into the details." 

The candidates all said the federal government has no oversight role in examining how the Penn State scandal happened. 

On the question of picking judges based on their views on abortion, Pittsburgh-area businessman Tim Burns recounted that his mother was 16 and his father was 18 when he was born, stressing the importance of their decision in his life. "Her parents kicked her out of their house and disowned her," Burns said of his mother. 

Laureen Cummings, a nurse and founder of the Scranton Tea Party, said she was brought up in foster care and became a teen mother of twins. Cummings noted her mother's decision to give birth allowed her to come this far in life. 

The field split on whether the United States should preemptively attack Iran if it obtained nuclear weapons and posed a threat to Israel. Four said yes, two emphasized negotiation and one said maybe. 

Malvern businessman Steve Welch supported an attack, calling a nuclear Iran "a destabilizing event for the world." Camp Hill attorney Marc Scaringi noted that former presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were able to negotiate without war with China and the former Soviet Union. "I don't think we should be encouraging the drums of war," he added. 

Former state Rep. Sam Rohrer of Berks County said America has an interest in working with Israel but should not take the lead in any military action against Iran. "I think we have a problem with entering into too many conflicts without getting authorization from Congress," Rohrer said. 

The debate among the hopefuls to challenge U.S. Sen Bob Casey Jr. in next year's general election was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Business Council as part of Pennsylvania Society in Manhattan.