LOWELL, Mass. — The two Democratic congressmen vying to take John Kerry’s former U.S. Senate seat clashed in their second broadcast debate Monday night, at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The debate was co-sponsored by The Boston Herald, moderated by Jaclyn Cashman, and questions also came from student panelists and via Twitter.
As in their previous debate, Ed Markey made spirited attacks on congressional votes Stephen Lynch had taken: against abortions for military personnel at military bases, for the so-called sequestration law and against the Affordable Care Act.
“The only option when we were voting was an option to vote for [the health care] bill that ensured that every child had health care, to make sure that being a woman was no longer a pre-existing condition, to make sure that there were prescription drug benefits for senior citizens in our country,” Markey said. “Every single Republican voted ‘no’ on that bill. Steve voted ‘no’ on that bill.”
Lynch defended all his votes, and broke down the problems he saw with the Affordable Care Act bill in its final form.
“One, it gave the antitrust exemption back to insurance companies that allowed them to operate a monopoly,” Lynch said. “No. 2, it took out the public option, the only option that actually introduced competition. And No. 3, it piled about 14 new taxes on to health care, which is why employers today are running away from their health care obligations.”
Both candidates have signed the so-called “people’s pledge,” which discourages third-party attack ads. And they both criticized California billionaire Tom Steyer’s $400,000 campaign attacking Lynch for allegedly wavering on the Keystone oil pipeline project.
“Just because he has a billion dollars doesn’t mean he gets to push people around,” Lynch said. “I’ve faced bullies all my life, and I won’t put up with that.”
Markey also said he’d repudiated Steyer’s advertising blitz. But he took a stand against the pipeline itself, while Lynch said he is waiting for the results of a federal report on the issue before deciding.
Markey may have surprised some in his response to questioning about the use of military drones by the United States.
“I’ll tell you I agreed with Rand Paul,” Markey said, referencing the Kentucky senator’s 13-hour filibuster. “I agreed with the filibuster he conducted. I’m glad that he demanded answers on what was the policy of the United States in deploying these drones. The American people, through the Congress and Senate, they have the right to answers.”
In a later interview, Lynch said he also supported that filibuster.
In closing statements at the end of the debate, the two men seemed to vie for blue-collar credibility. Lynch has made his working class background a big part of his advertising, and he stuck to the message Monday night, criticizing the Senate as an elite club.
“I’m not saying that every U.S. senator should have stood in an unemployment line,” Lynch said. “I’m not saying that every U.S. senator should have struggled through night school to get a degree. I am just saying one senator, one U.S senator should have had that experience and bring that perspective to the United States Senate on behalf of you all.”
Markey was not to be outdone. He said he was the first in his family to go to college. And he spoke about a visit he made to his father’s old home in Lawrence, “in the shadow of the mills,” as he put it. He said he met the Dominican family that now lives there.
“And the accents were different, but the aspirations clearly the same,” Markey said. “They want what the Markeys were able to receive, living in that triple-decker. And I think that’s our responsibility.”
The Democratic rivals are scheduled for two more debates before the April 30 primary.
This post was updated with the Morning Edition feature version.