Third Senate Debate Draws Crowds in Western Mass
Warren, Brown spar in Springfield
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 14:10
Last Wednesday at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Senator Scott Brown and consumer advocate and law professor Elizabeth Warren met for their third senatorial debate. Hundreds of supporters for both candidates lined the street outside the hall before the event, and many ticket holders had to abandon their Warren T-shirts on the steps of Symphony Hall, as campaign materials were not allowed in the theater.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Springfield Republican, Western New England College and Public Television for Western New England (WGBY) cosponsored the event. Tickets sold out within 15 minutes of their availability. Over 2000 people were packed into the first floor of the hall, with the balcony reserved for over 40 media outlets. Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno, former Springfield mayor Charlie Ryan, Holyoke mayor Alex Morse and congressmen Richard Neal and John Olver also attended the debate.
Moderator Jim Madigan, a host on WGBY television, alternated questions between the two candidates and was a stickler for time. The questions were picked from over 200 submissions from members of the audience. When the audience cut off an answer with applause or boos – both of which were against the rules – Madigan gave extra time to the candidate. At one point, Brown went over his allotted time by 10 seconds. “We gave you an extra 10 so we’ll do the same for Mrs. Warren,” said Madigan to Brown.
Warren gave her strongest debate performance so far, staying composed when Brown attacked her for representing large companies in court while claiming to be the voice of the middle class.
The first question of the evening was about unemployment, and the economy remained the focus of the evening. Warren attacked Brown on his voting record, as she did in the last two debates, saying that his votes against jobs bills hurt Massachusetts. Brown defended his votes, saying, “Your policies are hurting middle class families. I don’t want to raise taxes on any Americans.”
On healthcare, Brown said he was proud of having worked on the Massachusetts universal healthcare bill, but that the Affordable Care Act “will cut three quarters of a billion dollars from Medicare.” But Warren disagreed, saying that the cuts to Medicare will not affect benefits.
The third question drew noises of approval from the crowd, as Madigan asked, “What would you do to address the rising cost of education?” Madigan also put the question in perspective, noting that higher education accounts for almost half of all jobs in western Massachusetts. “We live in a world where there is far too little investment in higher education,” answered Warren, trotting out her stump speech focus on investment in education and infrastructure.
When asked about the role of the federal government, Brown drew applause for characterizing politicians as “pigs at a trough” and saying that the federal government should not be taking money out of voters’ wallets in a recession.
The most striking moment of the debate came when Brown cited a study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Warren cut in. “That is a group that has endorsed Senator Brown … and called Senator Ted Kennedy ‘public enemy number one,’” said Warren, drawing clucks of disapproval from nearly the entire audience.
Brown attempted to correct his Supreme Court stumble from the second debate, when he said Justice Antonin Scalia was his favorite justice. “I am pro-choice, we are both pro-choice,” said Brown, but Warren was on the offensive again, saying, “When it came down to it, in critical votes, [Brown] was not there for women. Massachusetts women deserve a senator they can count on all the time.”
Polls taken before and after the debate show that Warren holds a small lead, but within the margin of error for most polls.
Brown and Warren will meet for their fourth and final debate in Boston on Oct. 30.