SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WHSM) -- Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate here in Massachusetts is still scheduled for September.
Monday night in Western Mass News studios, the two candidates squared off for their first televised debate in western Massachusetts.
With pandemic protocols in place, Democratic Incumbent Senator Ed Markey and Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III met at a respectable and safe 12-feet apart.
While the format was markedly different, the questions stuck to a familiar theme: public health, economic well being, and the future of our state.
They began first, however, with the impact of George Floyd's death, and what presents a more immediate danger -- racism or the pandemic.
“It’s both at the same time,” Markey said. “The coronavirus has unearthed so all can see the racism in our society.”
“Look, the virus does not discriminate in terms of who it infects, yet we see that every single week, town by town, that it has a far more devastating impact on communities of color,” Kennedy said.
Markey throughout the night pointed to his record as a senator since 2013 saying he should be reelected because he has more experience in office.
“I have led and delivered for the state of Massachusetts since I’ve been given the honor of serving,” Markey said “I have fought for the laws which would protect us from the climate crisis. I’ve been successful in doing that.”
Meantime, Kennedy pointed to that very record as a reason for change.
“This moment calls for us to do something different, to build something better, and we will not do that with the same folks and same mindset that brought us the last 50 years,” Kennedy said.
Despite the barbs from Kennedy, for the most, Markey kept his criticism firmly focused on President Trump.
“When President Trump says he wants to make America great again, he does not,” Markey said. “He wants to make America hate again.”
Dave Madsen, one of the moderators, also brought up the issue of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home where 76 veterans died of COVID-19 asking if there should be federal oversight, and from both candidates was a resounding yes.
“That’s why I filed proposed legislation to increase accountability and prevention and to ensure there’s going to be better standards put in place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again not just at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home but for nursing homes in general,” Kennedy said.
“Senator Warren and I have called for a GAO – Government Accountability Office -- investigation of what happened in Holyoke, what happened in Chelsea, what happened all across this country,” Markey said.
In perhaps one of the most contentious moments of the debate, a Markey's record of visiting western mass.
“When I called the folks in western Mass, I spoke to an elected official who said that they had seen me in western Mass more over the course of the past year than they had seen you,” Kennedy said. “I was here twice. I don’t think the state can afford absent leadership in the moment we are in.”
“That is absolutely untrue,” Markey responded. “And if it was true, all these mayors wouldn’t endorse me. I am there for them, deliver for them and that’s why they are having my back during this election.”
Both candidates agreed on the issue of establishing an east-west rail, and when asked if either would ever run for president, Kennedy said he had no plans to do so and Markey proudly said he wanted to maintain his unique status in the Senate of being the only senator not to have ever run for that office.