The three Republican candidates for the state’s open Senate seat met Wednesdaynight in their 5th debate. Private equity investor and former Navy SEAL Gabriel E. Gomez, former US attorney Michael J. Sullivan, and state Representative Daniel B. Winslow sparred at WBZ-TV studios in Allston in a debate sponsored by WBZ-TV and The Boston Globe. The debate was anchored by Jon Keller of WBZ-TV.
The winner of the Republican primary will face either Rep. Edward J. Markey or Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, who are vying for the Democratic nomination. Both primaries are scheduled for April 30.
7:55 p.m.:The final minutes of the debate are more subdued. In closing remarks, Gomez, Sullivan and Winslow all mention their personal biographies. And now all will meet the press.
7:50 p.m.: Immigration is up next. Gomez aligns himself with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on a “pathway to citizenship.” Sullivan says he’s not in favor “of amnesty.” Both emphsize securing the border. Winslow says if he’s elected he will support an expanded E-Verify program.
7:43 p.m.: The next question is on foreign policy: Iraq. Sullivan speaks first and says the invasion of Iraq was the right move. Winslow says the “world is a better place” now that the late Saddam Hussein is gone, but he calls for immediately bringing the troops in Afghanistan “home.” Gomez, the former Navy SEAL and aircraft carrier pilot, says having a timetable for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is a bad idea. Sullivan says he is also against a timetable for withdrawing forces.
7:39 p.m.: Winslow and Sullivan tangle again: each throwing the charge that the other is a lobbyist. Gomez knocks both of them and their attacks as everything that is wrong with politics.
7:37 p.m.: A note on style: Winslow almost always speaks directly to the camera whereas Gomez and Sullivan speak to the other candidates or the moderators.
7:30 p.m.:: Needham asks what make each candidate better equipped than former Sen. Scott Brown—who lost his seat in November—to win statewide as a Republican in Massachusetts. Gomez makes the case that being a non-politician will help him appeal to wider swath of the electorate. Sullivan says that he is “tested” and “trusted” and that makes him best suited to win statewide as a Republican. Winslow says GOP can’t be the “Grand Old Party” anymore, but must be the “Great Opportunity Party” and cites his biography in state government.
7:24 p.m.: Discussion turns to gun control, specifically on the bipartisan bill which increases required background checks for gun sales, currently making its way through the Senate. Winslow said he would vote for the Senate compromise and Gomez says he would as well. Despite intense questioning from Winslow, Sullivan never answers the question of how he would vote on the bill. He does, however, say the bill doesn’t address the problem of “trying to keep guns out of the hands of the adjudicated mentally ill.”
7:21 p.m.: Sullivan goes on the offensive against Winslow again—that seems to be a theme of the debate so far. Winslow hits back by mentioning the Boston Herald’s endorsement of him today.
7:17 p.m.:Next question comes from Needham, who asks each candidate to cite a specific dysfuction with Congress and their proposed solution. Sullivan knocks the Senate for not allowing some legislation to come forward. Winslow calls for filibuster reform in Senate and lauds Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul’s recent multi-hour filibuster. Gomez says “there’s no doubt Congress is broken” and says the reason is longtime politicians. He calls for term limits.
7:11 p.m.: Pressed by Keller, the conversation turns toward entitlement reform. “Social Security is solvent until the mid-2030s,” Sullivan explains, but says he is okay with “making modest changes to the program over a period of time.” Winslow talks about addressing the rising costs of medical care and calls for “renovating” Social Security without breaking the “convenant” with those who have paid into the program.
7:06 p.m.: All three candidates promote their own plans, in discussing the president’s budget. Sullivan and Winslow, who served as chief legal counsul to Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, go head-to-head over Romney’s budgets during his tenure as governor. Gomez attempts to paint his two opponents as longtime politicians.
7:01 p.m.: First question goes to Gomez on President Barack Obama’s budget. Gomez opens his response in Spanish and then says he would not support Obama’s budget. “It’s not a serious budget,” Gomez says. Sullivan pans Obama’s budget too, calling it a “job-killer.” Winslow declares he opposes the Obama budget as well.
6:59 p.m.: The three candidates have taken their places in the studio, as have Keller and the Globe political editor Cynthia Needham, who will also be asking some questions of Gomez, Sullivan and Winslow.
5:45 p.m.: Supporters of Gomez and Sullivan have a particularly strong presence outside WBZ studios. The debate begins at 7:00 p.m.Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.