Mass. Senate candidates spar over health care, abortion

Democratic hopeful for the U.S. Senate Mass. U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch, left, and Edward Markey, center, prepare for a televised debate as moderator R.D. Sahl, right, speaks at the WCVB-TV studios in Needham, Mass., Wednesday, March 27, 2013.
Pool,AP Photo/Steven Senne

For over a decade, Massachusetts Democrats Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch have served together in the U.S. House of Representatives -- but that doesn't mean they agree on much of anything.

Seeking the Democratic nomination for the special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, the two congressmen squared off in a debate on Wednesday night, and sparks flew over just about everything, from the president's health care law to abortion.

Lynch said he didn't vote for the Affordable Care Act because "it was a very flawed bill and we missed a real opportunity to create real reform," according to the Boston Globe.

Markey, who did support the bill, called his vote for the ACA "the proudest vote of my career" and told his opponent, "Steve, when that vote came up, you were wrong when you were needed most," according to CBS affiliate WBZ.

"What we did there was wrong," Lynch replied, portraying the law as a tax hike and a kiss to insurance companies.

"It was like a hostage situation where we not only paid the ransom but we let the insurance companies keep the hostages," Lynch argued, adding that he would vote to fix - not repeal - the law as senator.

The two men also sparred over abortion, with Lynch, who again identified himself as "pro-life," attempting to muddy the waters by pointing out that Markey originally opposed abortion rights when he was first elected to the House in 1976, even supporting a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion before eventually supporting abortion rights in the early 1980s.

Markey explained, "For 30 years, I have been a consistent supporter of a woman's right to choose."

When both men were asked to explain how a sitting congressman could possibly be expected to break the gridlock in Washington, Markey touted his record of accomplishment and Lynch stressed his independence.

"I don't work for Nancy Pelosi and I won't work for Harry Reid," Lynch said, referring to the Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress.

"Anyone who knows me knows I take on the top issues and I get results," Markey said, reciting a litany of legislative accomplishments from gun control to telecommunications reform.

Before Markey and Lynch began brutalizing each other, their would-be Republican opponents - former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, state Rep. Daniel Winslow, and businessman Gabriel Gomez - faced off on the same stage earlier in the night, largely training their fire on the Democrats.

Gomez, asked to direct a question at Winslow at one point, instead used the opportunity to wonder whether Markey and Lynch would have voted for the Senate's recent budget raising $1 trillion in new revenue over 10 years, according to the Boston Globe.

"Do Congressman Markey and Congressman Lynch actually favor the budget that just came out of the Democratic Senate?" Gomez asked.

Winslow, in turn, replied, "Gabriel, I guarantee you that Steve Lynch and Ed Markey would have voted yes for a trillion dollar tax increase...Any one of us is better than either one of them."

Recent polls have shown Markey ahead of Lynch. Whichever Democrat emerges will be the favorite to carry the general election in deep-blue Massachusetts.

Both parties' primaries are scheduled for April 30, and the special election will occur on June 25.