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Markey-Lynch debate focuses on sequestration, social issues

The two Democratic candidates vying to fill Secretary of State John Kerry’s former senate seat, U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey, faced off in a debate Monday night at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and fielded questions ranging from the economic impacts of sequestration to the ethics of abortion.

“When you look at the U.S. Senate, it is populated today by a very narrow group of somewhat elite and privileged individuals,” Lynch said during the debate. “I think that this is the time to elect someone who grew up in public housing, who put on a pair of work boots and worked for a living. One U.S. Senator should have that experience and bring that perspective to the U.S. Senate on behalf of you all.”

Markey said he would continue to help Massachusetts grow and give everyone an equal chance for opportunities were he elected a Senator.

“[It is the responsibility of any Senator] to make sure that the 21st century is more educated, more healthy, more clean and more fair than the 20th century and that every child on every porch … is able to maximize their God-given abilities,” he said.

Lynch and Markey debated recent across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration, and both candidates acknowledged the problems the cuts would shoulder on the Commonwealth.

“Sequestration is another word for cuts — mindless cuts,” Markey said. “This sequester is cutting into the business plan of Massachusetts.”

Markey said he has been organizing efforts in the House to restore funding for the National Institutes of Health, so that grants to many schools and biotech firms in Massachusetts would be reinstated.

Lynch said he voted for sequestration because defaulting on debt was a negative direction for the U.S.

“It would have devastated this country,” he said. “We have to try to get people to come together and look at our budget anew and look at total reform of our budget. We have to reorder our priorities within the budget.”

Student panelists asked the candidates questions relating to their opinions on social issues such as abortion.

Lynch said he would protect the ruling of Roe v. Wade in Congress.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade doesn’t end abortion,” he said. “What it will do, however, is change the options for women from a clinical setting to one that is much more dangerous for women in crisis.”

Markey said his history of voting for women’s rights as well as his endorsement by Planned Parenthood represents his pro-choice beliefs.

Samantha Hooper, press secretary for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said the party was excited for the debate.

“We think we have a deep pool of talent,” she said. “We’re staying neutral in this debate. But it should be a good night.”

Tim Buckley, communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, said he did not hear anything new from Markey and Lynch during the debate.

“They are friends and Democratic Party colleagues in the House,” said Scott Palmer, professor emeritus of international relations and political science at Boston University. “They have agreed not to let in the outside attack-dog ads, so we [were] not likely to see fireworks.”

Palmer said these debates are important because the primary on April 30 is right around the corner and the candidates only have a short amount of time to sway voters’ opinions.

“Debates always matter, as they give the attentive public the chance to get to know candidates’ positions and decide whom they like best,” he said. “But clearly Lynch needs to do what he can to bring down Markey’s lead, so he has more at stake than his opponent.”

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