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D'Alessandro, Harrison Go It Alone at Candidates Forum

With Rep. Stephen Lynch and Keith Lapor absent at a candidates forum in Dedham on Wednesday, challengers Mac D'Alessandro and Vernon Harrison shared views on an array of national hot-button issues.

In what the two men hoped previewed an October candidates forum, Mac D'Alessandro and Vernon Harrison sat alone at a table for four.

D'Alessandro is a Democrat challenging State Rep. Stephen Lynch for his seat in Congress, and Vernon Harrison faces Republican competition on Sept. 14 from Keith Lepor. But, neither Lynch nor Lepor made it to the candidates forum at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham Wednesday afternoon.

"I look forward to this being the image of the campaign on Sept. 15," Harrison said, gesturing to D'Alassandro.

The pair handled several questions penned by seniors at NewBridge before the event, and then with time left, the candidates took questions from the elderly audience.

All the major national issues that one would expect came to the forefront – immigration, health care, Iraq and bailouts.

While D'Alessandro, a Milton resident, and Vernon, from Quincy, disagreed on many major points, they agreed on more than one occasion.

Corporate Bailouts

Both challengers expressed support "at the time" for the TARP bailout, which aided banks and Wall Street. Lynch voted against TARP in the October 2008 vote.

"There was a lot in that legislation not to like. But in the end of the day, the first order of business is to put out the fire," D'Alessandro said. "We had to stabilize this economy."

D'Alessandro said that TARP became necessary in order to prevent an economic depression, but now the government needs to look at how to prevent the necessity of a TARP-like bill in the future.

"What steps have we taken to ensure Wall Street no longer resembles Las Vegas?" said D'Alessandro.

While he is against corporate bailouts and the concept of "too big to fail," Harrison said he approved of TARP when it came up for vote in 2008.

"At the time, it was a good idea and the effect was a positive one," Harrison said. "Where it went wrong is it wasn't limited in its scope because it's grown out of control on the backs of taxpayers."

Immigration

Harrison, a Republican primary candidate, put an emphasis on controlling borders first before any other type of reform, but as he put it, he's "not just talking about our 2,000-mile Mexican border."

"I'm talking about those coming here for an educational basis, get an education, and love the American way yet are forced to leave. I think education visas should be a path to citizenship," Harrison said.

Once the United States has borders, visas and passports under control, then Harrison said he favors "compassionate, common-sense assimilation of folks that are here," but doesn't believe those living here illegally now should skip ahead of people waiting to get in legally.

D'Alessandro backed Harrison on the compassionate assimilation, no cutting of lines, paying of fines and back taxes, but the Democrat said it should be done in one sweeping comprehensive immigration reform bill.

"We've substantially increased the amount of resources provided to border security," D'Alessandro said. "It hasn't stopped the problem."

While immigration reform has raged on for decades, and become an emotional issue, D'Alessandro said he sees space for a compromise between Democrats and Republicans.

"There was a time not all that long ago, a couple years ago, when you had Sen. John McCain and late-Sen. Ted Kennedy were working together to craft just such a comprehensive solution," D'Alessandro said.

Differences with Lynch

Stephen Lynch is aiming for his sixth election to serve in Congress after 10 years in Washington, D.C. A member from the audience asked D'Alessandro where he differs with Lynch.

"He was the only Democrat in New England to vote against health reform," D'Alassandro said, a law the Milton resident strongly favors.

The Democratic challenger also slammed Lynch for continued support for the Iraq war in way of voting for it's funding.

D'Alassandro said Congress shouldn't have voted to re-up funding for Iraq each time in order to elicit discussion on war plans.

"As long as you are writing the checks, you are not asking those questions," said D'Alassandro, who was in Dedham Tuesday to note the end of combat operations in Iraq.

Harrison pegged himself not only as a D.C. outsider, but a politics outsider, someone who isn't seeking a career in politics, he said.

"I want to get down and cause trouble, and when I say cause trouble, I mean in a good way. I'm tired of the secrets and the self-serving," Harrison said.

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