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Public Statements - Congressional Candidates Debate War, Healthcare

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Location: Lawrence, MA

5 Democrats vie for Meehan seat

By April Simpson, Globe Staff | August 2, 2007

LAWRENCE -- Tense moments peppered the Fifth Congressional District debate last night, as five Democrats squared off on issues ranging from Iraq to education to reproductive rights and healthcare.
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Each of the candidates in the debate was given 90 seconds to answer questions from a three-member panel and then offer brief thoughts, mostly on existing legislation. The sometimes heated two-hour debate ended with candidates posing questions to each other.

Mass Alliance, a coalition of 22 organizations, hosted the forum for some of those seeking the congressional seat vacated by Representative Martin T. Meehan, who resigned last month to lead the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. The debate was held in Weatherbee Middle School Auditorium and moderated by Emily Rooney, host of WGBH-TV's "Greater Boston."

Although there was some agreement on issues -- they would all vote to repeal the Bush tax cuts and support the Nantucket Wind Farm Project if it were in their district -- the candidates differed on issues such as the war in Iraq. When asked what changes they would make to US policy there, they agreed the war is costing too much and America's presence has brought increased violence in Iraq. They disagreed on how they would bring troops home.

State Representative Jamie Eldridge of Acton said he supported a timetable for withdrawal but said the United States will be expected to support Iraq with foreign aid for years. "We're an occupier army, and that's not going to change until our presence has left," Eldridge said.

State Representative Barry Finegold of Andover, however, said he supports US Senator Joseph Biden's plan of finding a diplomatic solution.

Lowell city councilor Eileen Donoghue said she would set a timetable to begin withdrawal immediately. "What we're doing right now is not working." Donoghue suggested a withdrawal could be accomplished in 12 to 18 months.

Niki Tsongas, dean of external affairs at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, said she also supports a withdrawal strategy.

But state Representative James R. Miceli of Wilmington said that would be impossible. "There is no way you're going to get the troops home in months. Impossible. And anyone sitting up here telling you that knows it's impossible," Miceli said.

Leeann Albano, 39 of Haverhill, said she felt herself agreeing with Tsongas and Eldridge. "I'm not sure what the deciding factor would be, but I would like to see a woman in Congress," she said.

April Simpson can be reached at

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