BOSTON (AP) — Democratic U.S. Senate hopefuls Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch clashed Monday night on homeland security in their first debate since the Boston Marathon bombings.
The two congressmen spent most of the first half of the one-hour debate discussing security issues, signaling a noticeable shift in the focus of a campaign which had largely centered on domestic issues prior to the bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 200 last Monday. Both candidates suspended their campaigns after the attack and are only now returning to the trail with a little more than a week remaining until the April 30 primary.
Lynch began the debate by striking an aggressive tone, faulting Markey for voting against a federal law that allowed for the establishment of a national Joint Terrorism Task Force that pools resources of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Such a task force helped investigate the bombings in Boston.
“I don’t know how you are going to spin this,” Lynch said to Markey during a sharp exchange. “I voted yes, you voted no. That’s the fact.”
Markey struggled to remember or explain his vote on the task force, saying that he might have had questions at the time about whether the administration of then-President George W. Bush would support cooperation between the various agencies.
“I support the creation of the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” Markey said. “I don’t know the specific set of circumstances at that moment.”
After the debate, he emphasized that he fully backed the actions of the Boston task force that were widely praised for the investigation that led to the killing of one suspect and the capture of another.
Markey’s campaign issued a press release later Monday night describing his vote against the creation of the national Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was established in July 2002, as a “principled objection to military involvement in law enforcement.”