NEWTON, Mass. — The three Republicans vying for their party’s nomination in the race to fill Sen. Ed Markey’s former House seat in the 5th Congressional District met for a mini debate Wednesday night ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
This is the best chance the GOP has to take this House seat in 37 years. Even so, the candidates face daunting odds. The district, which snakes north of Boston from Southborough to Winthrop, gave President Obama his second-biggest margin of victory in the state last year, after the Boston-and-Somerville based 7th Congressional District.
NECN’s Jim Braude, who moderated the debate, asked the three candidates what kind of Republican they would be when it comes to shutting down the government. Braude offered three choices: Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, who urges a delay in the Affordable Care Act in exchange for reopening the government; Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, who says he would accept modest reforms in entitlements; or Rep. Peter King, of New York, who opposes shutting down the government.
“Neither,” replied Tom Tierney, a veteran from Framingham. “I think we shouldn’t have had a shutdown, period.”
The other two candidates said they would be Cruz.
Attorney Frank Addivinola, of Boston, not in the district, was asked what would happen to two groups of people if the health care law was delayed: those under 26, who can already be on their parents’ health insurance; and those with pre-existing medical conditions, who starting next year cannot be denied health insurance.
“Those are perceived benefits that people are anticipating and they may not come to be,” Addivinola replied.
There was only one testy moment in the debate. That’s when the candidates were asked what distinguishes each from the other two.
“One of the things that distinguishes me is that I wasn’t running for Boston City Council at the same time that I was running for United States Congress,” said Harvard physicist Mike Stopa, of Holliston. “That would be Mr. Addivinola, who just finished 18 out of 19 with 0.9 percent of the vote three weeks ago. So that’s something I think doesn’t show a whole lot of seriousness about a congressional race.”
“I think Mike should actually be speaking about his own qualifications,” Addivinola shot back.
Addivinola ran for an at-large Boston City Council seat in the preliminary election last month. Only the top eight candidates qualified for the general election.
In the 5th Congressional District, the candidates have until Tuesday’s primary to present their qualifications to voters.