With healthcare and the economy serving as key topics, the two candidates vying to represent Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District, which includes Attleboro and Seekonk, agreed to disagree often in a Monday night debate at Wellesley College.
The debate, the third for candidates Sean Bielat and Joe Kennedy III, began with a disagreement on how the two would go about reducing the national deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
Kennedy, a Democrat, led by accusing Bielat, a Republican, of endorsing vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget, which has would replace Medicare with a voucher system.
"You've embraced the framework of the Ryan budget," Kennedy said. "It's big cuts and big tax breaks."
Bielat said the assumption of his support for the Ryan budget is "debatable at best," but stopped short of saying he was totally opposed to the plan.
"You said the difference is I support big cuts and big tax breaks. Meaning [you] support small cuts and tax increases? That doesn't sound like a recipe for growth," the Republican said.
Bielat said it's government's responsibility to foster an environment in which businesses can thrive.
"Government is not good at creating jobs, we've seen it over and over," Bielat said. "No one is blameless here … it's silly to point fingers. [We need to] get people in Washington who have actually worked in business."
Kennedy said, if elected, he would be in favor of reaching across party lines to find a reasonable solution to the fiscal crisis, adding he was in favor of the framework of Simpson-Bowles reform.
"We need to come up with a responsible mix of spending cuts and revenue increases," Kennedy said.
Both candidates were polite with one another for the vast majority of the debate, but for a few moments toward the end, the candidates addressed each other's qualifications after a question from the audience.
Royall H. Switzler, a Republican real estate agent who was a 1986 gubernatorial candidate, accused Kennedy of running on his famous last name.
"About 50 years ago, in a campaign in Massachusetts, a candidate asked another candidate the question, 'If your name were Edward Moore, would this campaign and your candidacy be a joke?'" said Switzler, referring to Edward "Ted" Kennedy.
He continued, "I ask the question, if your name were Joseph Patrick and not Joseph Patrick Kennedy … would your campaign be a joke?"
After the crowd bristled, Kennedy responded calmly to the charge.
"Sir, I am very proud of my record of public service," he said, drawing loud cheers and applause from the crowd of mostly Kennedy supporters.
The League of Women Voters and Wellesley College co-sponsored the debate, which was moderated by Jo-Ann Berry, co-chair of the Citizen Education Committee of Massachusetts.