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Democratic Senate Candidates Drop The Gloves In Final Debate

With just a week remaining before the primaries in the special election for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts the two Democratic candidates held a debate in Springfield last night that was punctuated with heated rhetoric. 

The two veteran U.S. Representatives, Stephen Lynch and Edward Markey, argued bitterly over their Congressional voting records on issues ranging from homeland security to health care to the bailout of the automobile industry. Markey accused Lynch of personal attacks and deliberate distortions, while Lynch at one point called Markey a “liar.”

The nastiest of their several dustups in the hour- long broadcast debate came when Markey said Lynch had voted against the federal bailout of the auto industry.

Lynch voted for the 2008 Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act. But he voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Markey said is where the money that helped save the auto industry came from.

            The  close scrutiny of  Congressional votes continued  as  Lynch picked up on a line of attack he launched during a debate in Boston the night before. He criticized Markey’s record on homeland security, an issue that resonates in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Lynch challenged Markey’s vote against a bill to tighten security at the nation’s seaports.

Markey said he opposed the bill because it did not call for screening all shipping containers for nuclear material.

Lynch also criticized Markey’s explanation for opposing the creation of the Joint Terrorism Task Force on grounds it would lead to domestic police powers for the U.S. military.

Lynch attacked Markey’s support for  the North American Free Trade Agreement during the Clinton presidency, claiming that it had resulted in the loss of manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts. He also attacked Markey’s authorship of the 1996 telecommunications reform bill, which he said had resulted in fewer choices for consumers.

Markey slammed Lynch for being the only member of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation who voted against the health care overhaul known as Obamacare.

Polls show Markey has held his status as frontrunner as the campaign enters its final days, and what had been a rather gentile, almost cordial contest has turned nasty.

Lynch insists his new aggressiveness is not a sign of desperation.

The debate in Springfield was sponsored by a consortium of media outlets. It was held at the studios of  WGBY, the Springfield PBS affiliate, and moderated by WGBY’s  Jim Madigan.  The consortium sponsored a debate with the three Republican candidates that was held last month.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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