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Elections

Trump And 2020 Dominate Senate Debate Between Warren And Diehl

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Democratic Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Republican challenger Geoff Diehl engaged in a lively debate Sunday night in Springfield.

 Warren repeatedly linked Diehl with Donald Trump and criticized Republican policies on several issues including taxes, Social Security and health care.

"The way I see it, the house is on fire," Warren said. " And Mr. Diehl wants to go to Washington to be a cheerleader for Donald Trump. To defend him when he makes ugly slurs and embrace everyone of his dangerous policies."

Diehl, a state legislator from Whitman who was the Massachusetts state chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign, accused Warren of setting her sights on running for president in 2020, and ignoring her constituents in Massachusetts.

" We've seen again that my opponent is fixated on Donald Trump," said Diehl. "She's fixated on the White House and not your house. I want to be your full time senator, something she won't even commit to."

Throughout the hour-long debate, no matter what topic was raised by moderator Carrie Saldo of WGBY-TV, Warren almost always managed to invoke Trump’s name. 

The senator, who is seeking re-election to a second term, said she had been working to find permanent housing in western Massachusetts for Puerto Rican families forced to leave the island by Hurricane Maria.  She contrasted that with the Trump administration’s response to the disaster.

" Donald Trump's response to disaster relief was to throw rolls of paper towels at people in Puerto Rico and give himself an "A" and claim that only a handful of people were killed in the disaster instead of the actual number of people," said Warren. " Where is Mr. Diehl everytime? He is there to cheer Mr. Trump on."

For his part, Diehl said Warren was not a full-time senator for Massachusetts, pointing to her frequent political travels out-of-state.  He said Warren is a polarizing politician.

"Senator Warren herself is one of the main reasons we have this lack of dialogue, this poisonous political environment," said Diehl. "I want to be a different voice. I have not acted like that up on Beacon Hill."

Asked about an issue that gets a lot of attention in western Massachusetts -- the prospect of bringing high-speed rail between Boston and Springfield -- Warren called it one of her priorities, along with expanding broadband internet in the Berkshires.

" But, here is the problem again; the Republicans have given away a trillion-and-a-half dollars to the most profitable corporations and billionaires, and so when they talk about an infrastructure plan it turns out it is not real, it is all smoke and mirrors," said Warren.

Diehl, who led a ballot initiative campaign a few years ago that led to repeal of inflation-indexed automatic increases in the Massachusetts gasoline tax, said a more efficient use of state revenue could help pay for east-west rail.

" I know about infrastructure," declared Diehl.  "In Massachusetts, we are number two behind New Jersey in what we spend to maintain our roads. So, when we want to build rail we need to have the money available and not waste it in other areas."

The two found a rare issue of agreement on, of all things, marijuana.  Both said they thought the federal government should not interfere with states that have legalized marijuana.

" I think this is a states rights issue," said Diehl, who added that Massachusetts voters had " spoken very clearly" when they legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana.

Asked if the federal goverment should not interfere with states that have legalized marijuana, Warren responded "absolutely."

Midway through the debate there was a brief interruption, when a handful of supporters of Shiva Ayyadurai rose in the audience to protest the independent candidate’s exclusion from the debate.

Speaking with reporters after the debate, Warren repeatedly would not commit to serving out a full six-year term if she wins re-election on November 6th.

" I am working for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," said Warren. "I need allies. I have gone around trying to get more people elected."

Diehl, in his post-debate comments, said it should be obvious that Warren has national political ambitions.

"I think it is pretty clear to everybody she wants to run for president," said Diehl. "She actually admitted it and stoped misleading the people of Massachusetts about three weeks ago when she said she would 'take a hard look.'"

Both Warren and Diehl scheduled campaign events in western Massachusetts for Monday.  The Republican was scheduled to greet people at a donut shop in Southwick, tour a business in Agawam and hold a press conference in Springfield.

Warren was scheduled to appear along with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez at a rally on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus to promote Monday’s start of the two-week early voting period in the state.

A final debate between Warren and Diehl is scheduled on October 30th in Boston.

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