BOSTON With the field of candidates in the special U.S. Senate primary set, Massachusetts voters are bracing for another onslaught of campaign ads, political mailings and debates just months after the end of last year’s Senate election.
On Friday, U.S. Senate hopeful Daniel Winslow called on his fellow Republican candidates to agree to nine debates before the April 30 primary, while a campaign aide for GOP hopeful Michael Sullivan said four are enough.
Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez is also running on the Republican side.
Congressmen Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey, who also are eyeing the Senate seat, have already agreed to six debates in the Democratic primary.
Winslow said he’d like to see one debate in each of the state’s nine congressional districts. He also has launched a website that he says will let voters suggest specific locations for the matchups and possible debate topics.
“I propose a new direction for these debates by inviting voters to register their opinion before the candidates take the stage,” Winslow said in press release. “It’s time to break away from the tone deafness of our current Congress and listen to what the people have to say.”
Sullivan campaign spokesman Paul Moore thought that would be overkill.
He pointed to last year’s GOP presidential primary and said voters were overwhelmed by the slew of debates and eventually tuned out.
“It sounds like overload,” he said of Winslow’s proposal. “Mike’s thinking is four in the primary and four in the general assuming he wins the primary. He feels that should be enough to give the voters a good idea about who the candidates are and what they are running on.”
Moore agreed, however, that the debates should be wide-ranging and held in different regions of the state.
“We need to have serious debates that are substantive and revealing,” he said.
Gomez aide Lenny Alcivar said no decisions have been made yet on a debate schedule.
“Our campaign looks forward to spiritedly debating our opponents in the primary and in the general election,” Alcivar said.
Markey and Lynch have agreed to three general issue debates to be held in Boston, Worcester and Springfield.
The two also have agreed to hold another three debates focused on specific issues, including jobs and the economy, domestic policy and foreign policy. One of those debates will be held in Lowell and another in New Bedford, with the final location to be determined. A final schedule hasn’t been released.
The short election window is putting added pressure on candidates from both parties to agree quickly on a debate timetable. The primary is just two months away.
The special election was called to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of former Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who stepped down to become the nation’s new secretary of state.
The likely flurry of debates stands in sharp contrast to last year’s Senate contest pitting Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.
There was a single primary forum on the Democratic side early on, but Warren ultimately faced no competition on the Democratic ballot as her challengers dropped away one by one.
Brown faced no challengers on the GOP side.
During the general election the two candidates scheduled four debates but held three. Brown, who lost his re-election fight, declined to participate in the last debate citing the effects of Hurricane Sandy.