by Jack Encarnacao
The Patriot Ledger
The Democratic candidates seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. Scott Brown tiptoed around criticisms of clear frontrunner Elizabeth Warren during a forum Tuesday, riffing on common themes including income inequality.
Asked about her pronounced fundraising advantage over her four opponents, Warren, a consumer advocate with a national profile, said money has little bearing on the prospects against Brown in next year's election.
"I think the odds are good that, no matter who is the ultimate nominee by the Democrats, we're likely to get outspent," Warren said. "And all I can say is I might get outspent, but I won't get outworked."
The remark came toward the end of a nearly 90-minute discussion before about 400 people at Stonehill College.
The forum was sponsored by The Joseph A Martin Institute, Wickedlocal.com and WCVB.
Also participating were state Rep. Tom Conroy of Wayland; Marisa DeFranco, a Middleton resident with an immigration law practice in Salem; Dover resident Jim King, president and cofounder of Boston law firm Murphy and King; and Newton software engineer Herb Robinson.
The candidates hardly disagreed on anything, and drew few distinctions among each other. Warren raised her eyebrows and shook her head when King said he'd hired more people than anybody on the stage.
All five said that Brown, facing re-election for the first time, has done nothing of consequence to address the country's economic malaise.
"I've been a part-time candidate for three months and I've done more than he has," Robinson said.
Wall Street business practices was a consistent rallying cry, and all five candidates were unified in their message
"This isn't a question of economics, this is a question of values," Warren said. "I think the real question is who's side do you stand on? Do you stand with families or do you stand with Wall Street?"
King, a former federal prosecutor, said there are cases to be made against people involved in securities trading. Conroy pointed to U.S. Attorneys in New York for not doing more to prosecute financial crimes, and promised to use the bully pulpit of the Senate to push for modest tax increases on the wealthy.
Robinson espoused a plan to link the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans with the unemployment rate. DeFranco said changes to the tax structure and federal investments in public and green jobs would raise the lot of the middle class.
"The public agrees with us on so many issues," DeFranco said of Democrats. "What Democrats do is they capitulate ... It's just a lack of political will, from top to bottom."
The candidates' posture on taxes was closely watched by the Brown campaign. After the forum, a representative from the Massachusetts Republican Party circulated a statement that said the field all "support raising taxes on job creators, more burdensome regulations, higher spending and bigger government."
The candidates largely spoke to national issues without much local flavor.
They were quizzed about local trivia, with Warren correctly guessing the highest point in the state (Mount Greylock) and its third most spoken language (Portuguese). All except King struggled to recall the two years in the last decade that the Red Sox won the World Series.
The candidates were also asked to grade President Obama's handling of the economy. Warren gave him a B, as did Robinson. King gave him a C and DeFranco a C-plus. Conroy gave Obama an A.
To watch the debate click here.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.