Markey calls O’Connor ‘Trump Republican’ in Senate debate

Sen. Ed Markey addresses a small crowd in Seaport on Sept. 20, 2020. Photo by Caitlin Faulds/BU News Service

BOSTON – Ed Markey targeted opponent Kevin O’Connor for being a “Trump Republican” Monday night in the sole debate for the Massachusetts senate seat, while O’Connor accused the incumbent of being weak and ineffective.

“You know you’re a Trump Republican when you don’t wear a mask in public, when you’re not willing to talk about the magnitude of the climate threat to our planet, and when you support steamrolling a Supreme Court nominee in violation of Republican promises to the American people,” Markey said.

The Massachusetts Senate debate, which covered topics including the economy, immigration, and racial inequality, was held from separate rooms at GBH News studios to ensure the highest level of safety for the candidates and the panelists. The debate came just hours after Trump returned to the White House from Water Reed Medical Center, amid media confusion about the severity of his COVID-19 symptoms. 

“The tweet from President Trump this afternoon was irresponsible,” Markey said. “He said, ‘don’t be afraid of the coronavirus or it will dominate your life. If you’re not afraid of coronavirus, it will dominate your life.”

In the hour-long debate, O’Connor attacked the Democratic senator over a lack of strength in international politics and called him passive.

“The Chinese purposefully and repeatedly mislead not just American lives, but lives around the world,” O’Connor said. “Senator Markey’s silence for a year on that issue signals weakness, which is consistent with his record of weakness.”

O’Connor also expressed disagreement with Markey’s proposal for a $5 trillion relief fund to offset the pandemic’s economic upheaval. 

“Senator Markey’s proposal is $96,000 a year for a family of four dating back to March, regardless of whether those family members are even citizens of the United States,” O’Connor said. “It is a grossly, irresponsible proposal.”

Markey suggested that the fund, which is greater than the federal budget, would be supplied by removing tax cuts imposed by President Trump and those by former President Bush. 

“I would begin by repealing the Trump tax cuts. I would begin by repealing the Bush tax cuts,” Markey said. “Then, we can use those trillions of dollars to take care of ordinary American families who are suffering right now.”

O’Connor stood opposite of the senator, saying that tax cuts are necessary for the current, very successful economy.

“[Tax cuts] led to the greatest economy in the last 40 years,” O’Connor said. “The last time we did that was quite a long time ago, and everything that got us to that point Senator Markey opposed.” 

In the discussion on healthcare, Markey expressed his belief in Medicare for All. O’Connor strongly opposed the policy, even citing the opposition of former Vice President Biden to Markey’s proposal. 

“With his Medicare for All program [Markey] would bankrupt Medicare. It is an extreme position,” said O’Connor. “Vice President Biden said during the debate that he is the Democratic Party [and] he’s against Medicare for all.” 

O’Connor also expressed his opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and suggested that Massachusetts’s system could be a nationwide solution. 

“I don’t support the Affordable Care guide,” O’Connor said. “I support the system we have in Massachusetts, which every state can adopt. It’s a great model, and we have great coverage.” 

O’Connor’s concern, he says, is with the damage that Markey’s system would cause to the private sector. According to him, Medicare for All and the ACA “divert dollars away from high-quality providers like we have in Massachusetts.”

“Senator Markey wants to ignore quality, and it would hurt Massachusetts and hurt our great institutions,” he said.

Regarding efforts towards racial equality, Markey also touched upon reforms like the E-Rate program, which he plans to implement as a means of pumping $4 billion to assure internet access for all school students. 

“Right now, 16 million children in America do not have the internet at home,” Markey said. “They’re mostly brown, black immigrant kids, and if they don’t have it in the third grade, if they don’t have it in their fifth grade, there’s going to be a homework gap that leads to a learning gap that leads to an opportunity gap.” 

As a rebuttal, O’Connor mentioned the delayed response to addressing the 2010 killing of DJ Henry, a black man of Easton, Mass, killed by a white police officer. Also, he unfolded his own efforts against racial injustice, citing his experience as a lawyer.

“I was the first Diversity and Inclusion coordinator of what was then the largest law firm in Boston 20 years ago,” O’Connor said. “I represented the wrongfully convicted man who spent 20 years in jail for crimes and he did not commit.”

O’Connor has repeatedly expressed his stance regarding racial injustice, most strongly in an op-ed to the Lowell Sun in light of the George Floyd killing. 

Both candidates agreed regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) but were split when talking about sanctuary cities and the efforts of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

“For the 11 million of these individuals in America, we should create a comprehensive pathway to citizenship in our country,” Markey said. “We shouldn’t be trying to create an ICE deportation army to terrorize people.”

O’Connor was clear to demonstrate their differences on the topic.

“Senator Markey and his efforts to vilify ICE are completely irresponsible,”  O’Connor said. “What he wants is open borders. He wants to make Massachusetts a sanctuary state; it would bankrupt our state.”

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