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Independent, First-Time Voters Weigh In On Brown-Warren Debate04:26

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The Ierardi's white Colonial home sits hit on a hill along the aptly named Sky Top Lane in Dunstable, a town near the New Hampshire border. At the urging of 18-year-old Alec, most of the family gathered to watch the U.S. Senate debate on Monday night.

Alec is one of four children. Two of his siblings weren't home for the debate but Alec's twin brother Mike was. This is the first election Alec and Mike are eligible to vote in, and they're hoping to hear something that will help them make up their mind between Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Mike Ierardi, left, in his family room with his twin brother Alec, center, and their friend Jack Niemoller, right. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
Mike Ierardi, left, in his family room with his twin brother Alec, center, and their friend Jack Niemoller, right. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

Alec says no one in his family is enrolled in either the Democratic or Republican party.

"People, sadly, they either feel like they have to be Democrat or Republican," Alec said. "I don’t feel like I have to be either."

Sitting with her sons at the kitchen table before the debate begins, Kate Ierardi says her family is white collar middle class. She’s a nurse and her husband Dave runs manufacturing operations for a startup. Dave is most interested in bipartisanship. As for issues, Kate says the family is most focused on the economy, especially the rising cost of college.

"My frustration is, being a nurse, my husband being basically an engineer, I never thought I would turn 49 and not be able to afford my child to go to the college of his choice," she said.

A senior in high school, Alec wants to go to Northeastern or Boston College, and eventually become a nurse. But he knows he won’t be able to afford it unless he gets an ROTC scholarship. His brother Mike says he’ll go to Worcester State. Kate and Dave both graduated from UMass Lowell, which, coincidentally, is where the Senate debate took place.

We move from the kitchen table to the family room as the debate starts. Alec is waiting for the candidates to talk about tuition costs.

After about 15 minutes, with no talk about college costs or jobs, Alec is disappointed.

"I believe the first [question] was the Native American heritage and the second one is a train wreck, I don’t know where they are going," Alec said. "But it’s interesting nonetheless and it’s very important, but not very constructive."

The debate then moves to tax policy.

"Every single one of her criticisms on me is that I don’t want to raise taxes," Sen. Brown said.

Alec says even though he doesn't pay taxes, tax policy is important to him.

"But I know for a fact that lowering taxes on the wealthy is not the way to go whatsoever," Alec said.

"I feel taxes are important to us even though we are 18," Alec's twin brother Mike added. "Because our parents are helping us through college and if they are being taxed then that’s less money to help me through college."

The first question about jobs comes halfway through the debate. Warren answers first saying "a jobs bill will put paychecks in people's hands and get work that we need to get done."

Here the two candidates have very different approaches. Warren says a jobs bill will stimulate the economy. Brown says the government needs to lower taxes and have fewer regulations on small businesses to create jobs. Brown’s position appeals to Mike.

"Honestly, I think less regulation [means] jobs get created because, I don’t know, people want to be successful," Mike said. "If you don’t regulate people and you don’t force people to go a certain direction they are going to find the most successful direction possible."

His brother Alec has the opposite view. "I feel like it’s dangerous to deregulate anything especially where we are right now. I have to agree with Warren there. We’re going to spend all this money, we're going to go into debt and then we’re going to pay for jobs and then with those jobs, you know, we’ll get the taxes back and revenue will increase."

The brothers' debate over job policy goes on much longer than the jobs debate between Brown and Warren. By the end of the broadcast, the family is disappointed neither candidate talked about college costs or student debt. It leaves Mike Ierardi leaning toward Brown, and Alec Ierardi undecided.

This program aired on October 2, 2012.