As the clock ticks down to the Sept. 6 state primary, Fourth Congressional District candidates squared off for a in a debate held last night at in Newton.
, and sat down with NECN's Jim Braude, who hosts the news network's "Broadside with Jim Braude". The 30-minute debate included topics around deficit spending, medical marijuana and what qualifications the candidates brought to the table.
The subject of Kennedy's experience came up in . David Steinhof, Elizabeth Childs and Sean Bielat argued that Kennedy has not spent enough time in the private sector, or the Fourth District itself, to be an effective candidate.
When asked last night whether he believed Kennedy was qualified to represent the Fourth District, Robinson, an engineer from Newton, highlighted his own work experience and "creative problem solving" in the private sector.
"I don't think [Kennedy] is as qualified as I am," Robinson said. "I have 30 years experience doing problem solving in the private industry."
But at both the start and finish of the debate, Kennedy defended his work as a prosecutor on the Cape/Islands and as an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, saying that he has spent his career "fighting for people who felt like they were playing against a stacked deck."
Kennedy also stressed his door-to-door campaigning efforts, saying that he has done 160 events across the district, knocked on doors and "shaken more hands than any other candidate in this race."
After moving on from Kennedy's qualifications, Braude turned to Brown and brought up the well-known posters of President Barack Obama with "Hitlerian" mustaches and "impeach Obama" slogans. The posters are are often set up by supporters of Brown, who is part of the LaRouche PAC candidate slate.
"How can anyone take that kind of candidate seriously in a race for the United States Congress?" Braude asked.
"I’ve qualified the mustache, particularly with Obama’s health care plan, which includes the IPAB board, which is modeled off of the T4 program in Nazi Germany," Brown said.
Brown also said she has been "vindicated in every aspect" of her campaign, including "national and international" discussion of the Glass-Steagall Act. The recent Mars Curiosity landing also backs up her calls to revitalize the space program, Brown said.
The candidates were also asked about defense spending, and whether they support President Obama's plan to stay in Afghanistan until 2014 or to side with their Fourth District predecessor, Barney Frank, who proposes cutting defense spending by $1 trillion and backing out of the region immediately.
"I support getting our troops home, but making sure we don't allow a vacuum to be created in Afghanistan," Kennedy said. "I certainly support rolling back the defense budget...but I don't know if I'd go so far as $1 trillion."
Robinson said he would like to see troops come home sometime in 2013 and would support a $1 trillion cut in defense spending, but not all at once.
"We’ve got to remember that budget cuts mess up the economy," Robinson said. "You do a trillion dollars in budget cuts and that’s going to be a lot of layoffs and maybe a 3-4 percent uptick in the unemployment rate."
In a final, lightning round, Braude asked for quick opinions on legalization of medical marijuana and doctor-assisted suicide, .
Kennedy, who admitted he needed to "look into" both subjects before making a final decision, said he couldn't support medical marijuana at this time.
Brown also said she could not support medical marijuana and does not agree with the doctor-assisted suicide, saying that "human life is more sacred than we value it."
Aligning himself with Barney Frank, Robinson said he supported the legalization of marijuana "medical or otherwise." He also supports the ballot question related to physician-assisted suicide.
The state primary will be held Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. The .