U.S. Senate Debate Showcases UMass Boston

DeWayne Lehman | January 14, 2010
Scott Brown, Martha Coakley, and Joseph Kennedy

Scott Brown, Martha Coakley, and Joseph Kennedy

The highly publicized debate among the contenders to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy on Monday drew hundreds of attendees, scores of sign-holding supporters for the three candidates, and a swarm of media to the Campus Center. The debate, the only live televised forum with all three candidates, was hosted by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate at the University of Massachusetts Boston, marking the first major event collaboration between the new institute and the university.

More than 350 people filled the Campus Center ballroom to watch as former White House advisor and national news commentator David Gergen moderated the debate among State Senator Scott Brown, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, and independent candidate Joseph Kennedy (no relation to the late senator). The debate was aired live on seven television channels, including C-SPAN, and three radio stations. More than a dozen newspapers also covered the event.

“The U.S. Senate debate exemplifies part of what we should be doing as the region’s only public university—providing a forum for important discussions that impact our community, our state, and our nation,” Chancellor J. Keith Motley said. “What’s really exciting, though, is that this one event is just the beginning of how we will collaborate with the Kennedy Institute going forward. Together we will accomplish so much.”

The race for the Senate seat recently drew considerably more attention with the release of poll numbers that indicated the race between front-runner Coakley and Brown might be closer than anticipated. The heightened interest in the race from the polling figures also increased the attention devoted to the debate, both locally and nationally, where the change in one Senate seat could affect the outcome of President Obama’s health care reform initiative.

“There is so much at stake in this race to fill Senator Kennedy’s seat, so we were thrilled to provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about these candidates,” said Peter Meade, president and CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. “We look forward to working with UMass Boston to preserve and promote Senator Kennedy’s legacy and the great principles he stood for. We would also like to express our thanks to the university staff and volunteer students who worked so hard with our team to make this a highly successful event.”

Ted Kennedy began his Senate career in 1962. The election on Tuesday, January 19, will determine who will fill the seat that became vacant with his death in August of last year.

While political pundits differed on which of the three candidates scored the best shots during Monday’s debate, one of the sharpest critics in Boston, WBZ’s Jon Keller, picked a clear winner: “Tonight's big winner: the folks at UMass Boston, who did a beautiful job of staging the debate in the ballroom of their impressive new Campus Center."

Tags: emk , kennedy institute , the point

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