The two Democrats vying for the Massachusetts US Senate seat struck similar chords this morning as they addressed almost 500 union members at a candidate forum in Dorchester, their first joint campaign appearance.
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch and US Representative Edward J. Markey are both jockeying for an endorsement from the Service Employees International Union, which organized the event. Over the course of about 90 minutes, the candidates outlined their thoughts on immigration, education, and health care — and acknowledged that there’s a lot they agree on.
Lynch, who represents South Boston, told the audience in his opening statement that he and Markey have promised one another that whoever wins the Democratic primary will receive the support of his former opponent in the leadup to the regular election.
SEIU officials said the Republican candidates for the Senate seat — Gabriel Gomez, Michael Sullivan, and State Representative Daniel B. Winslow — were also invited to the candidate forum but chose not to attend.
Union members asking questions in the audience put much of their focus on immigration, sharing personal stories of the harships they have endured as immigrants and demanding to know how the candidates planned to act on the immigration debate.
“We have to figure out a way in this country to reform our entire immigration system,” Lynch said.
“We need to streamline the process,” Markey said, “and make sure we’re able to do so in a way that families are able to be united.”
Differences between the candidates were highlighted when an audience member asked each to explain his stance on the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law aimed at increasing the number of Americans with health insurance. Markey voted for the bill; Lynch did not.
Markey called the vote one of the proudest moments of his Congressional career.
Lynch said that he felt at the time that the final version of the health care bill made too many concessions that adversely affect Americans.
“We’ve created the wrong incentives in the current health care system,” Lynch said. “Employers are trying to escape their responsibilities.”
“I will not repeal it,” he continued, “but I sure as hell will try to fix it.”
At the end of the forum, union members in the audience filled out surveys, rating the candidates on their policy stances and giving an opinion on who they supported.
SEIU officials will use those surveys to help determine who they will endorse, a decision that could come as early as this week.