BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- FOX 25 hosted a debate for the three Republican candidates running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts Friday.
Gabriel Gomez is a former Navy SEAL officer who currently works as a principal for Advent International, a Boston-based investment firm. Gomez lives in Cohasset.
Michael Sullivan is a former state representative for Mass., the former Plymouth County district attorney, and the former U.S. attorney for Mass. He is a partner at the Boston-based law firm Ashcroft-Sullivan. Sullivan lives in Abington.
State Rep. Dan Winslow is serving the 9th Norfolk district. He is a former attorney in the private sector, a former trial court judge, and former chief legal counsel for Gov. Mitt Romney. Rep. Winslow lives in Norfolk.
The candidates began the debate on cordial footing as they shared similar stances on a few subjects.
All three nodded in agreement when FOX 25's Maria Stephanos asked if they would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and the Affordable Care Act. They also agreed that they were not crazy about President Barack Obama's budget.
They also acknowledged social media comments sent to Stephanos prior to the debate from users who claim Democratic candidate Ed Markey has the election "sewn up."
"This is a race that is winnable for Republicans, we have a historic opportunity, Mass. the only Senate race in the country, to set the tone, the agenda, and the direction for the rest of America that we can actually start to address the problems in America," Rep. Winslow responded.
Winslow added that Congressman Markey has spent 40 years in Washington D.C. He feels that America will not change "with the same guys."
Gomez echoed Winslow's comment, saying, "One of us three is going to be the next senator of the state of Massachusetts." He called Ed Markey a career politician.
Sullivan felt as April 30 draws closer, there will be a great deal of excitement about the election.
"I hope Ed Markey thinks he has a lock on this, because he doesn't," says Sullivan, who called Markey "absolutely beatable."
Stephanos acknowledged another quality all three Republicans have in common. They will all take major pay cuts if elected. She asked how they would relate to the people they represent and why they would give up the large salaries they all currently make.
Sullivan said he has taken a pay cut before to enter government service. He left Gillette to make $30,000 a year as a state representative.
"I don't look at it as a sacrifice. I look at it as a privilege to serve," says Sullivan.
Sullivan also said he has always related to people and that he shares the same concerns that Mass. parents have, such as safe neighborhoods and streets, jobs, and quality education.
"I'm one of you," Gomez told FOX 25 viewers.
The Cohasset businessman said he has earned everything he's received, including military accolades and his spot in Harvard's business school. He said he is running to give others the same opportunities he had when he was young.
"Public service should not be profitable," Winslow responded. "Public service should be to serve."
Winslow also said his childhood in western Mass. has helped him relate to the people he would represent, referencing his mother's value of education.
When discussing immigration, Gomez said he is not for amnesty and feels that there should be a pathway to citizenship for those people here. He feels immigrations should adhere to a criminal background check, learn English, and integrate into American society when becoming legal citizens.
Sullivan also said he is not for amnesty. He feels the greatest gift America can give to someone who is foreign-born is citizenship. He believes people who follow the legal process should be allowed citizenship.
Winslow also feels we are a nation of laws and people. He believes those who play by the rules shouldn't be disadvantaged by those who do not.
The debate became heated when Stephanos brought up a letter Gomez sent to Gov. Deval Patrick in hopes of being considered for the interim Senate position. In the letter, Gomez said he supported President Obama and praised what he called the governor's "bold and thoughtful leadership."
Stephanos asked Gomez to cite what he felt the governor has done that is bold and thoughtful. He said while he doesn't agree with 90-percent of what the governor has done, he has done some good things. He cited the governor increasing charter schools in the state and saying he'd consider Democrats, Independents, and Republicans for the interim seat.
Sullivan said that while he respects Gomez's service, he questions whether he wrote the letter as a "Navy guy" like he said he did or if he wrote it as an "investment banker" or as a "politician willing to say anything to close the deal."
Gomez responded to Sullivan's comment by saying he is the only one in the election who has not been in politics for most or part of their career. He added that he is running against "four career politicians."
Winslow said what alarmed him most about the letter is not that Gomez supported the president's policies on gun control or immigration, but that he campaigned against Obama's agenda on immigration and gun control after he wasn't given the interim seat.
Gomez called Winslow's statement "absolutely not true." He said he does not support a ban on assault weapons or limiting the number of rounds in a high-capacity magazine, but he does support closing some gun show loopholes and tying that into mental health. In terms of immigration, Gomez says he supports Marco Rubio's pathway to leadership and does not support amnesty "like Obama does."
Stephanos also asked Winslow about donations he made to Democrats. He said he never donated to a Democrat who had a Republican opponent. Those who he donated to were friends or friends of friends. Winslow also feels the election is about who is the most electable and that being able to have relationships and work across the Democratic side of the aisle will make him more electable in June.
Sullivan criticized donations Winslow made to Attorney General Martha Coakley. He says the most he has ever given to a Democratic candidate was $100 to a B.C. High graduate who was running in a Democratic primary in hopes of doing something about drug abuse in South Boston.
Stephanos asked the Republican candidates how they would vote on gun legislation currently being weighed by Congress.
Sullivan said he would vote "no." He feels the bill does not address mental illness because there is no database for people who are adjudicated mentally ill. He feels the government needs to fix the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Winslow said he would vote "yes" to what he calls the bi-partisan compromise. He believes that getting rid of gun show loopholes gets rid of unfair advantages between gun show and retail transactions. He also feels the bill brings Mass. and other states in the minority who do not participate in mental health reporting "back into that fold."
Gomez reiterated his previous statement, saying he agrees with closing the gun show loophole and tying it to mental health.
Gomez, Sullivan, and Winslow will face off in the primary election on April 30. The winner will take on either Congressman Stephen Lynch or Congressman Ed Markey in June.
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