The two major candidates for US Senate, Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown, face off tonight in their first debate of the special election campaign, appearing together at 8 p.m. on Dan Rea's show on WBZ Radio. Independent candidate Joe Kennedy is also participating.
The debate comes in the final week of campaigning before the Christmas and New Year's holidays take voters' attention away from the race to fill the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy. The special election is Jan. 19.
Coakley, the attorney general, and Brown, a state senator from Wrentham, have so far tangled only from afar, criticizing one another's positions through press releases, campaign representatives, and, in Brown's case, Internet ads. The tenor of tonight's debate might signal how the two candidates, who could debate several more times before the election, will handle themselves in their future meetings.
Coakley has given Rea something topical to ask about, having come out yesterday in support of the US Senate compromise on health care. Coakley voiced reluctant support for the plan even though it contains some restrictions on abortion, which she opposes, and does not feature a government health plan, which she wanted.
Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has cancelled its Senate candidates' forum scheduled for Jan 13. The League said today that it had scratched the event, planned for Faneuil Hall, after Coakley did not commit to participate before the deadline.
Brown and Kennedy had said they would take part in the event, which was expected to be the final forum before the election.
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