John Tlumacki/Globe Staff, David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Democratic US Senate candidate Martha Coakley today highlighted her differences with her opponent, Republican Scott Brown, on health insurance reform by saying that Brown does not pay for health insurance for his campaign workers, while she does.
“We already knew that Scott Brown didn’t want to make health insurance more affordable for Massachusetts families and businesses. Now we learn that he won’t even make health insurance available for his own staff. If he won’t stand up for the people he employs, how could we ever trust him to stand up for us?" Coakley said in a statement.
Brown's campaign said most of his small staff are contractors who already had health insurance. Those who did not were paid more to allow them to purchase coverage under the Connector -- a system set up under Massachusetts' landmark health care reform. Brown has supported health care in Massachusetts, but opposes a similiar national plan and promised to be the 41st vote against it; Coakley has promised to be the 60th vote for it.
"This is a silly issue. The small group working on the Scott Brown campaign either has existing insurance or were compensated sufficiently to purchase it on their own," Brown spokesman Felix Browne said in a statement.
The candidate initially told the Globe between campaign appearances this morning, "I don't have any idea what she's talking about" and directed Coakley to his lawyers. After apparently being briefed by his staff, he described the provisions for his workers' coverage at a later campaign stop, emphasizing that they were happy with the arrangement.
Coakley, the state's attorney general, and Brown, a state senator from Wrentham, began barnstorming the state today in a last-minute scramble for votes. The race has caught fire in recent days, drawing national media attention as a possible game-changing moment in the health care debate -- and in the presidency of Barack Obama, who has made reforming health care a priority.
Coakley's campaign also announced today that Obama had chosen Northeastern University as the venue for his visit to Massachusetts on Sunday to boost her campaign. The 3 p.m. event (doors open at 1 p.m.) at the Cabot Center is free and open to the public.
Coakley was joined at a morning rally at the IBEW hall in Boston's Dorchester section by Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of the late Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal legend who held the seat for 47 years. The cheering crowd of 200 included union members in workboots, sweatshirts, and Carhart jackets.
Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO delivered a stemwinder, telling the union members, "We have a fight on our hands. There's nothing less than the future of the labor movement at stake in this election."
At a later event in downtown Boston, she was greeted enthusiastically by Service Employees International Union members at their headquarters, who stood and applauded, chanting in Spanish, "Si Se Puede," ("Yes, we can"). Some listened to her remarks through translation devices.
At his first campaign event today, in Quincy, Brown was greeted by an excited crowd of about 500 people. Detail police officers clapped him on his back, and the crowd included elderly women and people who described themselves as Democrats.
Before he spoke, on a stage in front of the public library decorated with a giant American flag and bunting, he was greeted by seven seconds of applause, cheers, and chants of "Go, Scott, go!"
He was joined by former Republican governor William F. Weld and a former Quincy mayor, Frank McCauley, who said, "I've never seen anything like this before."
Brown told the crowd, "This race is about differences. It's always been about differences, and it's not about personalities," citing the two candidates' positions on taxes, spending, and terrorism.
He also criticized Coakley for running negative ads, saying, "It's funny how quickly the politics of hope, the politics of hope, have turned into the politics of destruction."
Later in the day, Brown’s campaign filed a criminal complaint against the Massachusetts Democratic Party for sending out a campaign flier that accused Brown of wanting hospitals to turn away “all” rape victims, a major misrepresentation of his position. The front of the mailer has photos of dozens of women and says, “1,736 women were raped in Massachusetts in 2008. Scott Brown wants hospitals to turn them all away."
At issue is an unsuccessful legislative amendment in 2005 that Brown sponsored, which would have allowed hospital employees to deny rape victims an emergency contraceptive on religious grounds. The facility would have had to have someone else who could administer the contraceptive, or refer the victim to another facility at no additional cost. The amendment was attached to a bill that he ultimately voted for, which required emergency rooms to provide the contraceptives to rape victims.
Brown's campaign also sought to make hay out of Coakley's comments on a radio show Friday night, in which she mistakenly referred to former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, a supporter of Brown's campaign, as a New York Yankees fan. Coakley said it was a poor attempt at humor, saying, "I've never pretended I'm the best joke-teller."
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