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Democratic Senate Candidates Face Off In First Debate

The four Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, from left: Attorney General Martha Coakley, Alan Khazei, Congressman Michael Capuano and Stephen Pagliuca at the start of a televised debate in Boston on Monday. (Pool photo by Yoon Byun/The Boston Globe)

The four Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, from left: Attorney General Martha Coakley, Alan Khazei, Congressman Michael Capuano and Stephen Pagliuca at the start of a televised debate in Boston on Monday. (Pool photo by Yoon Byun/The Boston Globe)

The first broadcast debate between the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate found the candidates trying to link themselves to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — drawing comparisons to the way Kennedy was able to work with opponents and their strengths.

All four candidates said their party leaders in Congress should force through a health care bill with or without Republican support, despite President Obama’s call for bipartisanship.

The candidates also agreed that stimulus spending has saved jobs and a second round of stimulus might be needed.

On the topic of licenses and health care for illegal immigrants, Rep. Michael Capuano, of Somerville, called it a false choice and said that a path to citizenship needs to be established.

“The real answer is proactive involvement, aggressive involvement, getting to the table and working out an immigration policy that works for this country,” Capuano said.

Attorney General Martha Coakley said granting licenses to illegals is not happening, but her focus has been to protect everyone as attorney general.

“If people are victims of employers who treat them unfairly, we don’t care what their citizenship is, we stand up for their rights,” Coakley said.

“We don’t want people exploited, we don’t want people victimized — we need a path to citizenship and I think that’s where my efforts would be in the Senate, and I believe Sen. Kennedy’s would have been.”

Venture capitalist and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca said he would crack down on people hiring undocumented migrants, while City Year co-founder Alan Khazei agreed there should be a path to citizenship, but he would not grant services to the undocumented.

None of the candidates would support an increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan.

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