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Storm disrupts final week of campaigning, debate in Massachusetts US Senate race

  • FILE - In this July 17, 2012, file photo, Massachusetts Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren waves to voters at the conclusion of a forum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Democrats are counting on their New England friends to help them pick up Republican-held Senate seats on Nov. 6 and construct a barrier against losses in Nebraska and elsewhere that could erase their majority. In Massachusetts, Republican Sen. Scott Brown is suddenly considered the underdog against Warren as the state is poised to easily back President Barack Obama over former Gov. Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

    FILE - In this July 17, 2012, file photo, Massachusetts Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren waves to voters at the conclusion of a forum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Democrats are counting on their New England friends to help them pick up Republican-held Senate seats on Nov. 6 and construct a barrier against losses in Nebraska and elsewhere that could erase their majority. In Massachusetts, Republican Sen. Scott Brown is suddenly considered the underdog against Warren as the state is poised to easily back President Barack Obama over former Gov. Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

  • In this Oct. 16, 2012, photo, Republican Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., speaks during a news conference where he was endorsed by the State Police Association of Massachusetts, SPAM, as well at the National Troopers Association in Boston. At rear is Brown's wife Gail Huff.  Democrats are counting on their New England friends to help them pick up Republican-held Senate seats on Nov. 6 and construct a barrier against losses in Nebraska and elsewhere that could erase their majority. Brown is suddenly considered the underdog against Elizabeth Warren as the state is poised to easily back President Barack Obama over former Gov. Mitt Romney.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    In this Oct. 16, 2012, photo, Republican Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., speaks during a news conference where he was endorsed by the State Police Association of Massachusetts, SPAM, as well at the National Troopers Association in Boston. At rear is Brown's wife Gail Huff. Democrats are counting on their New England friends to help them pick up Republican-held Senate seats on Nov. 6 and construct a barrier against losses in Nebraska and elsewhere that could erase their majority. Brown is suddenly considered the underdog against Elizabeth Warren as the state is poised to easily back President Barack Obama over former Gov. Mitt Romney.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • FILE - In this July 17, 2012, file photo, Massachusetts Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren waves to voters at the conclusion of a forum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Democrats are counting on their New England friends to help them pick up Republican-held Senate seats on Nov. 6 and construct a barrier against losses in Nebraska and elsewhere that could erase their majority. In Massachusetts, Republican Sen. Scott Brown is suddenly considered the underdog against Warren as the state is poised to easily back President Barack Obama over former Gov. Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)
  • In this Oct. 16, 2012, photo, Republican Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., speaks during a news conference where he was endorsed by the State Police Association of Massachusetts, SPAM, as well at the National Troopers Association in Boston. At rear is Brown's wife Gail Huff.  Democrats are counting on their New England friends to help them pick up Republican-held Senate seats on Nov. 6 and construct a barrier against losses in Nebraska and elsewhere that could erase their majority. Brown is suddenly considered the underdog against Elizabeth Warren as the state is poised to easily back President Barack Obama over former Gov. Mitt Romney.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Both candidates also postponed campaigning Monday. Brown said he was working to make sure the state received any federal help needed while Warren closed all her field offices and asked her staff and volunteers to be ready to assist if needed.

Late Monday, Brown announced he wouldn’t be attending Tuesday’s fourth and final debate, sponsored by a consortium of Boston media outlets.

A Brown spokesman said the Republican incumbent decided against the debate “out of concern for the hardship faced by people in the path of Hurricane Sandy.”

“It is simply not appropriate to go forward with a political debate when a disaster strikes. The focus for all of us before, during and after the storm needs to be on emergency response and disaster relief, not campaigns and politics,” Brown spokesman Colin Reed said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, Brown said that he would “certainly” participate in another debate before voters go to the polls next week.

“If it’s appropriate, we will have it (Tuesday) or the next day or the next day,” Brown told reporters. “Certainly we’re going to do it. I think the people will want to hear where we stand on all the final issues ... before the election.”

On Friday, Brown also said he would have no problem attending the final debate, and even offered Warren a lift to the event.

“That’s why I have a truck. It has four wheel drive,” Brown said. “If she needs a ride, happy to pick her up. I’ll be there providing the electricity is on.”

Warren campaign manager Mindy Myers said the Democratic Senate hopeful also agrees the debate should not be held Tuesday.

“Elizabeth believes the focus now must be on public safety and ensuring people get the help they need during the storm and in its aftermath,” Myers said. “With the concern for public safety and cleanup paramount, Elizabeth believes the debate should not be held (Tuesday).”

A new poll released Monday shows the race continues to be a dead heat.

The Boston Globe poll shows Brown and Warren receiving the support of 47 percent of those polled, including voters who are undecided but said which candidate they are leaning toward supporting.

Among the poll’s likely voters, Brown received 45 percent compared with 43 percent for Warren, well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll reflects just how tight the race remains. With a week to go until Election Day, neither candidate has been able to command a clear lead.

The poll of 583 likely voters was conducted from Wednesday through Sunday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the state, both candidates reigned in their activities.

Warren’s campaign released a statement saying she “will be checking with officials throughout the day to monitor the situation, and has asked her staff and volunteers to be ready to help if needed.”

The statement also said that Warren had canceled all public campaign events, and urged “everyone to take necessary precautions.”

Brown met with reporters Monday morning after being briefed by state officials at the Massachusetts Emergency Management headquarters in Framingham.

Brown said he planned to travel around the state on Monday and speak with local officials. He also said he would be working with communities after the storm to help cut through any red tape and get federal aid as soon as possible. He rejected any suggestion that his visibility was in any way part of the campaign.

“I’m the senator from Massachusetts. My job is to make sure I do my job. They can say whatever they want but I’ve been doing this long before today,” he said.

“This isn’t about tactical advantages,” Brown added. “People elected me to do my job and that’s what I’m doing.”

Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who also visited the emergency bunker, agreed politics should be put aside during the storm.

“There are no politics, everyone is focused on public safety, everybody pulls together, the campaigns go on hold and people just have to get the job done right now,” Kerry said.

The Massachusetts race is already the most expensive in state history. Both national parties are keeping a close eye on the contest as they wrestle for control of the Senate.

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