The two candidates for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts held their only debate of the general election Monday night.
Democratic incumbent Senator Ed Markey and his Republican Challenger Kevin O’Connor accused each other of being extremists in a wide-ranging debate that touched on issues including the pandemic, the environment, and health care.
Throughout the hour long debate hosted by GBH News, Markey sought to tie O’Connor to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – both very unpopular in deeply blue Massachusetts.
"The last thing we need in Massachusetts is to send another Republican down to help Mitch McConnell stop a green energy revolution, stop the expansion of healthcare benefits, stop ensuring that we have real criminal justice reform," Markey said.
O’Connor, an attorney from Dover who is running for elected office for the first time, said he is not a Trump surrogate.
" For all Senator Markey wants to run against President Trump, I am running as a Kevin O'Connor Republican," said O'Connor. He said his positions were 'largely consistent with Gov. Baker, who is endorsing me, not Senator Markey."
After Markey declared Trump to be “criminally negligent” for his leadership in the pandemic, O’Connor accused Markey of not calling out China for failing to stop the spread of the virus.
"Your failure to point the finger at China and to hold them accountable signals the level of weakness that unfortunately we have seen throughout your long career," O'Connor said.
" Your are just plain wrong on this," countered Markey. He said he supported Trump when the president shut off air travel from China. " But the problem is the president did not follow up by naming a czar."
Repeatedly, O’Connor criticized Markey over his support for the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all, and eliminating private health insurance.
" It is an extreme position that, again, is outside the mainstream of the Democratic party," said O'Connor.
There are a few issues where O’Connor showed differences with Trump. He said he supports the DACA immigration program and believes climate change is real.
" I don't agree with not being in the Paris climate accord, I didn't agree with that deal," said O'Connor. " I absolutely agree that climate change is real and the way to deal with it is to work with people internationally."
O’Connor called the Green New Deal “posturing” and he said the country could not survive economically without fossil fuels.
Asked how he would pay for the Green New Deal, Markey said he would repeal tax cuts given to the rich and divert subsidies from fossil fuels.
"Give us some of that 'socialism' that the oil and gas companies had to wind, solar, all-electric vehicles, plugin hybrids, battery storage technologies, energy efficiency technologies and we will bury the fossil fuel industry," said Markey.
Markey said he was not discouraged by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden disavowing the Green New Deal.
"The Geen New Deal has shifted the whole discussion," said Markey. "Joe Biden has moved a long way over the last year."
O’Connor said despite not agreeing completely with Trump, he still plans to vote for him.
"President Trump represents the best opportunity for us to have safe neighborhoods, not open border sanctuary states, not defunding and disarming the police the way Senator Markey advocates," said O'Connor. "He offers the better choice for restoring our economy."
The pandemic had a huge part in the debate, which just after President Trump’s dramatic return to the White House from the hospital where he was treated for COVID-19.
The potential audience was reduced because the debate coincided with the Patriots-Chiefs game that was rescheduled to Monday night after a player on each team tested positive for COVID-19.
In a last minute change, the two candidates were put in separate studios. GBH News in a statement said “it was to ensure the greatest individual comfort and safety of everyone involved.”