Voters heard a variety of different views from both sides of the political aisle Tuesday night at in Easton when Democratic and Republican candidates for the Fourth Congressional District squared off in separate debate forums.
Editor-in-Chief of The Herald News and Taunton Daily Gazette Lisa Strattanand moderated the event, which was hosted by the Martin Institute at Stonehill. Questions came from a panel made up of WGBH Boston political reporter Adam Reilly, WCVB-TV political reporter Sean Kelly and Herald News editorial page editor Aaron Frechette. Chloe Gotsis of the Newton Tab stepped in for Frechette during the later Republican debate.
In the first round, Democrats Rachel Brown, Joseph Kennedy III and Herb Robinson answered questions from the panel ranging from the economy, taxes, The Affordable Care Act and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Kennedy and Robinson were in agreement on most issues while Brown often provided a different perspective.
Brown, who said she supported nominating a new Democratic candidate for President, was the only Democrat to disagree with the Affordable Care Act, saying that she would "definitely repeal" it immediately.
"I would say healthcare is not something based on cost," she said. "Healthcare is something human beings deserve. This is an attack on the basic principals of this country."
Brown said she hadn't considered the Defense of Marriage Act and felt the economy was the top priority. Kennedy and Robinson supported it's repeal.
"I would definitely repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I have a number of gay friends and I want them to stay my friends," Robinson said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
The restoration of the Glass-Stegall Act was a major focus for Brown throughout the forum. The act, which she said should gain bi-partisan support, would separate commercial and investment banking. The Democrat also supported the North American Water and Power Alliance, which she said would stimulate the economy and create energy.
Kennedy said he supported a bi-partisan plan similar to Simpson Bowles to stimulate the economy while eliminating national debt. While he said modifications should be made, like the removal of the social security component, he supported "the overall framework."
Kennedy also said he supported "getting small businesses back on their feet" by providing access to capital and creating an educated workforce while reforming the tax code to eliminate uncertainty in the marketplace.
For Robinson, he supported spending because it was a proven method through the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
"It’s the only proven technique for fixing the economy," he said.
An hour later, the Republican forum took on a different tone.
Sean Bielat, Elizabeth Childs and David Steinhof agreed that they supported federal spending that is allocated properly.
Steinhof said he supported federal spending on infastructure and bio-diezel while decreasing regulations from entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
"The EPA's job was to clean up air and water and all they’ve done is scare manufacturers out of this country," he said.
Steinhof also said schools should be controlled at a local level and voucher programs for private programs should be offered.
Bielat agreed with Steinhof, adding that constitutionally, the Federal Government "has a very limited role" in education.
Childs added that the federal government should be seperated between "structures" and "functions."
The function of the government has to be defined and we have to know what that function is," she said. "..what function do you need the government to provide?"
All three Republican candidates joined Brown's sentiment from the first forum and said they did not support Obama's Affordable Care Act.
"It’s very important for us, I think, to repeal and replace that bill with one that is visionary and make sense," said Childs. "This bill is not."
The candidates criticized the part of the stipulation that requires companies, including religious organizations, to give patients access to preventative services.
"In this case the administration seems bent on dividing people along certain lines," Steinhof said.
When Republicans were asked what they admired about current seat-holder Barney Frank, Bielat - who ran against Frank in 2010 - said he was good at providing constituent services, but he was poor at Federal Legislation.
Steinhof agreed with Bielat, while Childs said that at times Frank worked with leaders across the isle, but wished he had done it more.
When asked about campaign spending, the Republicans agreed that the Democratic Kennedy would spend more. That wouldn't stop them, however, from moving forward.
"It’s people that vote, not dollar bills." Steinhof said.
Both Democratic and Republican primaries are set for Thursday, Sept. 6.