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The War Takes Center Stage In Senate Race02:15

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It was the war in Afghanistan and who should fight it that took center stage Thursday in the Democratic primary race.

All four Democratic candidates met to debate on WTKK radio. They were asked whether they support a military draft. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei said no.

"We have an all-volunteer fighting force," Khazei said. "It's the most effective fighting force in the world. They're the best trained, best equipped and best at fighting wars for us. We don't need it."

Attorney General Martha Coakley said the U.S. needs to fund the volunteer army.

"Provide for the training, make sure that we fund the National Guard," Coakley said. "People choose these services and I think one of the great things about this is the men and women who are serving who are going overseas, they're not complaining about this."

At first, venture capitalist Stephen Pagliuca distinguished himself from his rivals by saying he would support a draft. "Because I think it talks about equality," Pagliuca said, "so I'd support a draft."

Later, after the forum, he took that back. Pagliuca's campaign issued a statement saying it wanted to clarify his position. The statement said Pagliuca misinterpreted the question and he does not support reinstating the military draft at this time. The statement said Pagliuca would support a draft if more troops are needed and there aren't enough volunteers.

Rep. Michael Capuano said he would never support a draft. And he took the war to television. Wednesday, his campaign started airing a commercial in which Capuano recognizes the request by the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for more troops.

"But the questions remain," Capuano said in the ad. "What's our mission? How do we define success? And what's our exit strategy? Without the right answers to those questions, I will never vote to send more of our sons and daughters to war. Never."

A Suffolk University poll released this week reveals that voters place the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as only the third most important issue that the next senator will face, behind the economy and health care.

This program aired on November 13, 2009.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.