US Senate candidates Gomez, Markey spar in second debate
SPRINGFIELD -- U.S. Senate hopefuls Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Edward Markey clashed in their second debate on everything from tax policy and the minimum wage to the National Security Agency's collection of billions of Americans' phone and Internet records.
Gomez said Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who claimed responsibility for revealing the surveillance programs, should be labeled a "traitor" if any of the leaked information ends up harming anyone.
Markey said Snowden should accept responsibility for making the information public, but Markey also said Americans shouldn't have to sacrifice all their privacy protections to find what he called the "guilty needle" in the "innocent haystack."
Both candidates said they support a $10 federal minimum wage, but Gomez said the larger goal should be to help Americans aim even higher rather than be satisfied with scraping by.
"People don't want to earn just $10 an hour," the former Navy SEAL said. "They want a chance at the American Dream."
Markey said that for many Americans, winning a $10 an hour minimum wage is a first step toward that dream.
The two candidates also debated tax policy.
Markey said the nation should end tax breaks for oil companies and other corporations. He said those breaks are draining away a critical source of revenue.
"Subsidizing the oil industry is like subsidizing a fish to swim and a bird to fly," Markey said. "You simply don't have to do it."
Gomez said he supports closing corporate and personal tax loopholes.
He also said he backs lowering the federal corporate tax rate to encourage companies to bring more of their money back into the country to be taxed.
Gomez also said the country needs a more streamlined tax system.
"We should also be able to do our own taxes in a simple, efficient way," he said.
Markey and Gomez also split on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would bring oil from western Canada to Texas.
Gomez said the project would bring more jobs to the United States, while Markey said the United States would end up bearing all the environmental risk while the oil itself is dumped onto the international market.
The two were also asked what they could do to help improve the economy in western Massachusetts.
The unemployment rate in Springfield tops 10 percent, much higher than the state as a whole.
Gomez said one way to protect local jobs is to repeal the medical device tax included in President Barack Obama's 2010 federal health care law. He said the tax is harming businesses across Massachusetts.
Markey said he supported a number of job-creating projects in western Massachusetts including the planned Union Station regional transportation center in Springfield.
Asked about whether they would support changes to federal marijuana laws, Markey said he supported the ballot question in Massachusetts allowing the medicinal use of marijuana.
Gomez said the question should be left up to individual states instead of the federal government, but he would personally not support anything beyond the medicinal use of marijuana.
Tuesday's debate comes a day after a Suffolk University poll showed Markey has the backing of 48 percent of voters compared with 41 percent for Gomez. The new poll of 500 voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points and was conducted June 6-9.
On Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to visit Boston to attend a rally for Markey in the city's Roxbury neighborhood.
A final debate sponsored by a consortium of Boston media outlets will be held at WGBH-TV on June 18.
The election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of John Kerry to become secretary of state is June 25.
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