The three Republicans running in the special election for US Senate in Massachusetts clashed over social issues and claims to fiscal conservatism during a debate Thursday night in Springfield
With less than a month to go until the primary in a race that polls indicate few voters are paying much attention to, State Representative Daniel Winslow took an aggressive posture and clashed several times with front-runner Michael Sullivan, the former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. Winslow also confronted Gabriel Gomez over the letter the businessman wrote to Governor Deval Patrick asking for the interim appointment to the vacant senate seat.
Winslow, who is pro-choice, warned that a Sullivan victory in the Republican primary would assure a Democratic win in the special election because of Sullivan’s strict anti-abortion stand.
While affirming his pro-life principles, Sullivan denied Winslow’s assertion that Sullivan had endorsed the national Republican Party Platform that called for a ban on abortion with no exceptions.
Gomez said as a Catholic, he does not believe in abortion, but insisted he would not, as a Senator, impose his personal believes on others.
All three candidates said they would vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act but for different reasons. Sullivan said it is an issue of states’ rights.
Gomez said one of his best friends at the Naval Academy was expelled because of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Winslow said he believes same sex couples have a right to marry.
Each of the three candidates described themselves as fiscal conservatives, but again Winslow and Sullivan clashed. Winslow accused Sullivan of supporting costly tax loopholes for special interests.
Winslow put Gomez on the defensive when he brought up the letter Gomez wrote to Governor Deval Patrick asking to be appointed to fill the vacant Senate seat. In the letter Gomez said he supported President Obama’s position on immigration reform
On gun control, each of the candidates said they supported the Second Amendment and opposed more restrictions on fire arm ownership.
Each of the candidates made specific appeals for support in western Massachusetts. Winslow noted that he was born in Northampton and grew up in Amherst. Gomez said he would work to protect defense jobs in Pittsfield and the region’s military bases. Sullivan mentioned a conversation he had with an audience member just before the debate began about the issue of homelessness.
The debate was sponsored by a western Massachusetts media consortium and held at the CityStage theater. The debate was moderated by Jim Madigan of PBS-affiliate WGBY TV About 250 people were in the audience. A debate with the Democratic candidates, Congressman Edward Markey and Congressman Stephen Lynch is scheduled in Springfield on April 18.
The party primaries are on April 30th and the special election is June 25.