Democratic U.S. House candidate William Keating took his primary opponent to task Thursday for teaching at two colleges while working as a full-time state legislator, though he also acknowledged the difficulty of running for Congress while he served as a prosecutor himself.
Keating, the Norfolk District Attorney, and State Sen. Robert O'Leary of Barnstable clashed on other issues, including the Social Security retirement age and the Cape Wind offshore wind farm, during a debate taped for airing Thursday night on New England Cable News.
Keating and O'Leary are seeking their party's nomination for the 10th Massachusetts congressional district seat being vacated by seven-term Rep. William Delahunt.
O'Leary earned nearly $34,000 last year teaching part-time at Cape Cod Community College and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, both state schools, the Boston Herald reported on Thursday. O'Leary told the newspaper that being a teacher made him a better senator and being a senator made him a better teacher.
"I don't think missing roll calls make you a better senator," Keating said during the debate.
O'Leary acknowledged missing 17 roll calls last year during one late-running Senate session where he ran into a conflict with his teaching job.
"That was a rare and unusual situation," he said, adding that he had a 92 percent voting record during his 10 years on Beacon Hill.
Keating said he believed elected officials should be banned from holding any other state job while in office. But under questioning from moderator Jim Braude, Keating also conceded that running for Congress while serving as district attorney was "pretty hard."
"My phone is in the next room should anything happen, and I'm on 24-hour call," he said. "The DA's job comes first."
O'Leary lashed out at Keating for what he considered misrepresentations of his positions on raising the retirement age for Americans and on Cape Wind.
O'Leary said he never stated that the retirement age should be raised, only that he would consider raising it as one possible remedy for Social Security.
"We do have to face up to the fact that the Social Security system, long-term, has problems," he said, adding that he would never support a change that affected current retirees.
Keating said he would "absolutely not" support increasing the retirement age, adding that he believed the system was solvent for at least the next 27 years and there was no need for major reforms now.
The issue is potentially an explosive one in the 10th District, which includes a large number of older Americans and retirees who live on Cape Cod.
O'Leary also claimed Keating has misrepresented his position on Cape Wind, the federally approved plan to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.
O'Leary, who has touted his environmental credentials on the campaign trail, said he was a strong backer of offshore wind projects but opposed Cape Wind because the planning process was flawed.
"There was no transparency, no bidding, no indication of what the cost was going to be," he said.
"We were told ... it was going to reduce energy costs, now we're told it's going to raise them significantly."
Keating said he backed Cape Wind, and that there would be a greater cost in not acting.
"We shouldn't be taking a back seat to China or to Europe in the development of alternative energy sources and technology," he said.
Both candidates, while expressing their admiration for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who lived in the district, said they would not have voted to appropriate $20 million to help construct a center in Boston bearing Kennedy's name that would be devoted to the study of the U.S. Senate.
The winner of the Sept. 14 Democratic primary is certain to face a strong challenge from the GOP, which has targeted the seat - the only one where there is no incumbent running - as one of its best chances for making inroads on the all-Democratic U.S. House delegation in Massachusetts.
Four Republicans are seeking their party's nomination: Former state Treasurer Joseph Malone, state Rep. Jeffrey Perry, Cohasset businessman Ray Kasperowicz and Robert Hayden, a lawyer with the state Department of Public Utilities.
This program aired on August 27, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.