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The Tenth District

Keating contradicts previous stimulus support

William R. Keating’s position has not changed, and he “simply misspoke,” his campaign spokesman said. William R. Keating’s position has not changed, and he “simply misspoke,” his campaign spokesman said. (Stephan Savoia/ Associated Press)
By Alan Wirzbicki
Globe Staff / October 27, 2010

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Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating, the Democratic nominee for Congress in one of the state’s most heated races, said yesterday that he opposed the controversial federal economic stimulus bill signed by President Obama last year, despite saying earlier in the race that he supported it.

At a debate in Randolph, Keating, a candidate in the 10th District, twice said he would not have voted for the $787 billion economic recovery plan, a centerpiece of the president’s domestic agenda that has been heavily criticized by Republicans.

“I would not have supported that,’’ Keating said. “I would not have supported that particular stimulus package.’’

But in many prior campaign appearances, Keating has said he would have supported the stimulus package, including in a televised Democratic primary debate in August when he said yes when asked directly how he would have voted.

A campaign spokesman, Steve Crawford, said Keating had misspoken at the Randolph debate.

“Throughout this campaign, Bill Keating has consistently said he would have voted for the federal stimulus package, but would have preferred something more targeted toward rebuilding our infrastructure,’’ Crawford said. “His position has not changed. He simply misspoke at an early morning campaign appearance.’’

Keating’s Republican opponent, state Representative Jeffrey D. Perry of Sandwich, pounced on Keating’s words yesterday.

“Bill Keating cannot simply wash away his previously stated support of a trillion-dollar stimulus package that failed to create jobs and helped drive our national debt to record levels,’’ Perry said in a statement.

Every member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation voted in favor of the stimulus, and the state has received more than $2 billion in stimulus funding, according to the administration. The GOP has attacked the stimulus program for adding to the deficit and falling short of the administration’s job-creation predictions.

When the stimulus program was being debated, Obama administration officials said the mix of tax cuts, additional state aid, and public works spending would keep unemployment below 8 percent, but the national jobless rate stands at 9.6 percent.

Still, Democrats and many economists say that without the stimulus package, job losses would have been even greater.

Keating and Perry are locked in a close race to succeed retiring Representative William D. Delahunt in the 10th District, which includes Quincy, Plymouth, and Cape Cod.

During the campaign, Keating has sought to offer a nuanced view on the stimulus program, often saying that in retrospect he would have preferred different legislation but did not want to second-guess lawmakers.

“Hindsight’s 20-20, and I don’t want to be too critical of those people who acted at a time of great urgency for our country,’’ he said in Randolph yesterday.

A reversal on the stimulus program could cause some uncomfortable moments Saturday morning, when the Obama administration’s point man on the legislation, Vice President Joe Biden, is scheduled to campaign for Keating in Quincy.

Alan Wirzbicki can be reached at awirzbicki@globe.com.