Senate hopefuls press for openness
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LOWELL — Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren jousted on everything from immigration reform and Afghanistan to jobs and the U.S. Supreme Court during their second televised debate.
The one-hour contest included several sharp exchanges between Brown and Warren, a Harvard Law School professor.
“Excuse me, I’m not a student in your classroom, let me respond,” Brown said to Warren at one point as the candidates talked over each other while sparring over a jobs bill.
Warren accused Brown of “making things up” when he questioned her past legal work on behalf of corporations in cases involving asbestos victims and chided him for claiming to be one of the most bipartisan senators in Washington.
Brown began Monday’s match-up, moderated by NBC’s Meet The Press host David Gregory, by again demanding Warren release her personnel records at Harvard University, even as he conceded she is “a qualified academic” who earned her title as professor.
“I think the fact that she hasn’t released her records speaks volumes,” said Brown, who’s suggested Warren used her claims of Native American heritage to help land a job at the school, something Warren denies.
Warren responded by pressing Brown for more information on the clients he represented as a private attorney and said if re-elected to the Senate, Brown would help fellow Republicans block President Barack Obama’s agenda.
The Democrat pushed back against Brown’s criticism of past legal work she did on behalf of LTV Steel and Travelers Insurance in U.S. Supreme Court cases, which he said runs counter to her image as a fighter for the middle class.
Moments before the start of the debate, Warren’s campaign released a list of clients she has represented in the past.
The list included six cases she worked on that went before the U.S. Supreme Court, another four that went before the U.S. Court of Appeals and three that went before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
“I have worked hard for 30 years to make the legal system just a little bit fairer,” said Warren, who added that she wasn’t bothered by Brown’s decision to refer to her as “Professor Warren” in debates and press conferences.
The debate allowed the candidates to draw sharp distinctions on a range of policy issues.
Asked about Afghanistan, Warren broke with Obama, saying U.S. troops should be brought home ahead of his 2014 withdrawal date.
“We can’t stay and rebuild Afghanistan forever,” she said. “I think it is time to bring our troops home.”
Brown, however, said he wouldn’t want to second guess the president.
“I would rely on the guidance from the president and his generals,” he said.
The two also split on immigration on a question posed by a student from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Brown said he supports an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, but opposes the so-called DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants. He called the proposal “back door amnesty.”
Warren said she strongly supports the Dream Act.
The two also came up with different answers when asked to name their model of a Supreme Court Justice.
Brown named conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, but quickly added three additional choices — Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, and the more liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was appointed by Obama.
Warren named Justice Elena Kagan, another Obama appointee, who once served as dean of Harvard Law School.
Gregory ended the debate on a lighter note by asking both candidates a question about the Boston Red Sox — specifically if they thought manager Bobby Valentine should be fired after the team’s worst season in decades.
Warren said she thought Valentine deserved another year, while Brown said he would leave it up to Sox management.
Red Sox questions can be fraught with potential danger for candidates in Massachusetts. In the special election won by Brown in January 2010, Democrat Martha Coakley stumbled when she referred to former Sox pitcher Curt Schilling as a New York Yankees fan.
LeBlanc reported from Boston.