GOP Senate Candidates Debate on Economy, Social Security and Immigration
State Rep Daniel Winslow, former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and former Navy SEAL Gabriel E. Gomez discussed a range of issues in the hour-long debate
The quest to become the "Washington outsider" representing the Republican Party in this year's Massachusetts special senate election heated up at Stonehill College on Tuesday, March 12, when GOP candidates met in their first primary debate.
"Electing either of the Democratic nominees would be a sign of 'surrender' that we have given up," State Rep. Daniel B. Winslow (R-Norfolk) said in his closing statement, referring U.S. Congressmen Ed Markey (D-Malden) and Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston).
Winslow, former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, and former Navy SEAL Gabriel E. Gomez discussed a range of issues in the hour-long debate, including Roe vs. Wade, gun control, immigration, social security and the economy.
The debate was sponsored by WickedLocal, WGBH and WCVB and questions were asked by a journalist panel of WGBH's Adam Reilly, Janet Wu of WCVB, and Chris Burrell of the Patriot Ledger. Stonehill professor Peter Ubertaccio moderated.
The three candidates disagreed on little, with a common theme centering around Washington's disfunctionality and its need to be fixed.
"I think sticking with the status-quo is a complete failure on the part of our government," Sullivan said. "I think we’re far too high to celebrate [the nation's 7.7 unemployment rate.]"
Gomez, who criticized "career politicians" and lobbyists during his closing remarks, said little was getting done in Washington because of the "lack of courage."
"We don’t have a lack of ideas down in D.C. right now, what we have is a lack of courage," he said while discussing Social Security.
Gomez said it was "sad that Scott Brown lost because he’s the kind of person that we need down in D.C. recommending the commonwealth of Massachusetts."
All three candidates agreed Brown's loss to Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 election was evidence Republicans were not reaching the right people.
"We have to be what we are, which is the great opportunity party and have that message — that message of hope — be the message that we reach out to American voters," Winslow said.
About Social Security, the three candidates said they believe raising the retirement age might worsen the program while emphasizing current seniors should remain unaffected.
Winslow, Sullivan and Gomez also discussed mental health background checks for gun buyers. Gomez said the now-expired assault weapons ban was ineffective and would still be while Sullivan said any total ban would be "completely ineffective."
Winslow said he would consider three things when debating gun legislation, including whether it would prevent tragedies like Newtown, "stop kids from killing with illegal guns in inner cities" and adhere to the Bill of Rights.
The three candidates also said they wouldn't agree with a litmus test if and when they confirmed a new Supreme Court judge. Rather than focus on issues, such as Roe vs. Wade, the candidates agreed judges should adhere to the constitution and remain ethical.
On immigration, Winslow said the "immigration bureaucracy" should be reformed and reform of the nation's immaigration laws should be "comprehensive."
Gomez, the son of two Columbian immigrants, said he did not believe in amnesty, the border should be secured, and Congress should work to create a pathway to citizenship that is "not easy, but not impossible."
Sullivan said there "needs to be consequences" for those who break the law and amnesty should be granted for undocumented immigrants who served in the military.
Candidates disagreed on styles of leadership. Wu asked Winslow about his "“out of the box theatrics," including an incident when the state representative sent Gov. Deval Patrick jars of fluff to emphasise the government's need to eliminate fluff from the state budget.
"It engaged the dialogue," Winslow said. "In fact, I got a letter back from the Governor’s chief [of staff] and he actually agreed with a lot of the ideas."
Gomez took a different tact.
"I’m comfortable with who I am," Gomez responded. "My actions speak for themselves and I don’t need to grandstand like that."
Sullivan voters likely won't see theatrics from him.
"I could not see myself participating in that type of theatrics unless it is for the sole purpose of finding it humorous," Sullivan added.