The three Republican candidates in the special election for the 5th Congressional District seat debated Sunday evening in front of about 45 FSU students, staff and MetroWest community members in the Forum.
Each of the candidates took a few moments out of his two-minute introduction to point out flaws in their opponents’ platforms and strategies for winning against the Democratic nominee.
Tom Tierney, a Marine Corps veteran, said, “Massachusetts needs a Republican – they need one bad. … I think I am that Republican.”
He said once he is elected, he will focus on saving Social Security, fixing medical care and preventing tax increases.
Tierney won the GOP primary for the seat last September and was defeated by then-incumbent U.S. Rep. Edward Markey for the 5th Congressional District seat.
Frank Addivinola, an attorney who teaches introduction to law and biological sciences at local colleges, said, “He [referring to Tierney] believes in a platform of higher taxes, single-payer healthcare and greater government regulations.”
He emphasized the issues of unemployment and and current immigration reform efforts. He said creating jobs is his top priority and that officials need to enforce the current immigration policies to prevent illegal immigration.
“There are many tough issues facing the country right now. We need to make decisions – decisions that will affect all of us and our future,” said Addivinola.
Michael Stopa, a nanophysicist at Harvard University, said, “With all due respect to Tom and Frank up here, I am the only candidate sitting up here who has a prayer or a plan of winning in December [the general election is on December 10].
“I think there is nothing wrong with running a race because it’s a yearly hobby [referring to Tierney]. I think there is nothing wrong with running a race because it will embellish the masthead in your law practice [referring to Addivinola],” said Stopa.
Stopa said he will fight for “free market principles” once he is elected, and push for more science education.
Former Massachusetts Republican Congressman Peter Blute moderated the discussion.
The three panelists leading the debate were Ted Dooley, Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans chairman, Chris Latimer, FSU political science department chair, and Phil Maddocks, editor of the Framingham Tab and Natick Bulletin.
Panelist Dooley asked the three candidates how they planned to win over voters who, just months ago, “overwhelmingly voted for President Obama and Senator Warren.”
Tierney said he doesn’t consider himself a “liberal.
“I tend to be conservative in terms of the state issues and more liberal in terms of national issues,” said Tierney.
He said he would like to work with Obama on Social Security, keeping the retirement age down. Additionally, Tierney said he would not get rid of Obamacare but make Medicare optional to citizens 65 years or younger.
Stopa said Republicans do well in special elections even though “we have been mowed over recently.
“We have seven other Democratic candidates who are complicit with everything going on in Massachusetts that’s bad in the past few years, and are all in lockstep with each other,” said Stopa.
He said “Obama fatigue” has set in, especially given recent “scandals” this summer with the IRS and NSA.
Stopa added that he has had two-time Obama voters sign his papers in support.
“I think it [winning the election] is going to be easier than we think,” said Stopa.
Addivinola said he is confident that the country’s current “failed economic policies” will ensure a Republican victory come Election Day.
He said he would focus on creating more jobs and “go back to our roots” by supporting smaller government.
Stopa said after sending his first daughter off to college this September, he observed, “Universities have a self-imposed socialistic policy. … The universities themselves impose a sliding scale and base it [cost of student tuition] on need.”
Addivinola said his experience teaching at many local colleges has allowed him to witness first-hand the struggles students face paying for school and avoiding debt.
“Many institutions have accelerated the cost of education and it is now very expensive to be a student at school. … Too much administration and special interests within the school itself are factors of the skyrocketing price of education,” said Addivinola.
Tierney said the total cost of his full-year tuition at Boston College in 1964 was $11,050.
“The cost of education is out of control,” said Tierney.
He said he believes in a student loan program that allows students to pay back their loans by taking a percentage of their income.
“It lets the student who has the loan repay it in a way that is affordable to him or her,” said Tierney.
Stopa said the most important issue America faces right now is the need for Congress to focus on economic growth.
“We’ve had anemic growth for the five years of the Obama administration. … If we don’t have that kind of [economic] growth, we are not going to have the kind of revenue that we need to retire the debt,” said Stopa.
He said jobs are directly tied to this because “we have so many people out of work, and they’re not paying taxes.”
Tierney said Congress must focus on taxes because it is one of the key factors to solving the growing national debt.
“The Bush-Cheney tax program must be repealed. … The government has to be proactive,” said Tierney.
Addivinola disagreed with Tierney and said Congress will not solve the national debt by “focusing on taxes.
“The budget cannot grow. … We need to have prosperity in the United States. In order to do that, we need a smaller government,” said Addivinola.
When it comes to national security, Tierney “reluctantly” would give the NSA broad surveillance power. “We do lose a little of our freedoms, but in turn, we save six million lives.”
Stopa immediately disagreed with Tierney, adding that the NSA is “too powerful.
“National security – what is outlined now – isn’t a perfect piece of legislation,” said Stopa. He added that the real focus should be on human intelligence and recognize the “underlying problem” is terrorism.
Chip Jones, of Worcester, said, “I’ve been in Massachusetts politics since [former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci.] The most improved candidate in only a year-and-a-half is Frank Addivinola. It is frightening that the leader in the polls is a liberal Democrat [referring to Tierney].”
Melissa Numan, of Framingham, said, “Massachusetts really needs a Republican. I would like to see some change and Addivinola is that change.”
Frank Gerety, of Ashland, said, “I was able to attend both the Democratic and Republican debates, so I got a sense of every candidate. I think it is important to be aware of every option you have, and not just listen to one side.”
Joan Murphy, of Medway, said, “Each of the candidates tonight relayed a promising platform. I admired their collective push for change – that is what this district needs.”