GOP Senate Candidates Face Off In Election Eve Forum

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Just 12 hours before the polls were to open, the two Republican candidates vying for their party's U.S. Senate nomination, state Sen. Scott Brown and businessman Jack E. Robinson, appeared in their only televised forum of the campaign on Monday night. The two disagreed on a variety of topics during the half hour appearance on WGBH-TV's "Greater Boston" program.

Brown maintained his strategy of focusing his attention not on his primary opponent, but on the Democratic candidates instead. Moderator Emily Rooney tried to draw out differences between Brown and Robinson on several issues, including health care, climate change, Cape Wind and taxes.

Robinson said Brown's credibility on the issue of taxes is compromised, because Brown supported a property tax hike in Wrentham before he was an elected official. They also clashed over Robinson's call to eliminate the capital gains tax for a year, in an effort to jumpstart the economy.

"You're against my plan to eliminate the capital gains tax, Scott, and by the way, if Ronald Reagan had thought the same way you did in 1981, we wouldn't have had the longest peacetime boom in American history," said Robinson.

Brown disagreed, saying Reagan reduced capital gains taxes but did not eliminate them.

"I have to deal in realistic things, and obviously, eliminating the capital gains is never going to happen, especially with the majority that's in Washington right now," Brown said. "But what may happen is a reduction in the payroll tax, and a reduction in the capital gains tax," he added.

Taxes weren't the only topic where Brown and Robinson disagreed. They also clashed on President Obama's plan for Afghanistan. Brown supported the proposal to send 30,000 more troops, while Robinson said he is skeptical.

"The president has said he wants to defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban. Well, al-Qaida is basically out of Afghanistan now," Robinson said.

"I don't think we'll ever be able to defeat the Taliban, because remember, 20 years ago, the Taliban were the Mujahideen whom Ronald Reagan called Freedom Fighters," Robinson added. "So 20 years ago they were our allies; today we're trying to defeat them. I don't think that's realistic."

Brown then struck back, criticizing Robinson's call to sit down and negotiate with the Taliban.

"I think that just shows how naive he is about what's happening in that area, as well as the four Democrats," said Brown.

"I'm shocked that they wouldn't support their own president. It shows how far left they are," he added.

Brown said he respects Robinson and wishes him well, yet he continues to focus on the final election on Jan. 19.


"I'm used to being the underdog, I'm ready for the special interests, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Gov. (Deval) Patrick, the Clintons to come in," Brown said, before turning his aim on Democratic frontrunner Martha Coakley.

"As you see what happened with Martha Coakley, SEIU's already bought and paid for her. She's already taken the money and when she goes down there and votes, she'll be saying 'So how does SEIU want to rate me first?' " Brown said.

Brown was referring to Coakley's endorsement from the Service Employees International Union. After the debate, Brown said he is not sure which Democrat will win the primary, saying they are all the same type of candidate.

For his part, Robinson said Monday night he plans to work nonstop until the polls close, then sit down and find out how he did.

This program aired on December 8, 2009.

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Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



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