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Elizabeth Warren, Geoff Diehl Face Off With Sharp Rhetoric On Integrity

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren state Rep. Geoff Diehl debate in Springfield.
Frederick J. Gore
Masslive / masslive.com/photos
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren state Rep. Geoff Diehl debate in Springfield.

In the second of three scheduled debates, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren faced off Sunday night against her Republican challenger, state Rep. Geoff Diehl.

The hour-long debate was marked by Diehl's support of President Trump, Warren's White House ambitions, and interruptions by supporters of an independent candidate.

As the two candidates answered questions on topics from gun control to infrastructure, both consistently circled back to their main attack lines for each other.

“The big question is: Are we going to send somebody to Washington to cheer on Donald Trump?” Warren said.

Diehl focused on Warren’s focus, or alleged lack thereof, on Massachusetts.

“My opponent is fixated on Donald Trump,” Diehl said. “She’s fixated on the White House and not your house.”

President Trump came up a fair amount. Diehl was the Massachusetts chairman for his campaign in 2016, and Warren has said she may try to challenge Trump in 2020.

At various points, Warren rehashed Trump’s controversial statements, and noted that Diehl has not publicly criticized those comments.

“Who’s going to support that kind of ugliness that turns Americans against Americans, that turns people against people, that says if there’s a problem in your life, it’s their fault?” Warren asked. “That’s what Donald Trump and his campaign chair, Mr. Diehl, both support.”

Diehl deflected.

“Senator Warren: Donald Trump is not here in Massachusetts,” he said. “And when you’re campaigning around the country all the time, neither are you.”

Warren and Trump have often nipped at each other on Twitter, including recently after Warren released DNA test results suggesting her Native American ancestry.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Warren, alleging she falsely claimed minority status on professional documents.

Asked why she took the DNA test after previously declining to: “Because I am an open book," Warren said. "And it’s all out there. It’s on the internet. Everybody can take a look."

Diehl said the issue of Warren's claimed ancestry calls her integrity into question.

”I don’t care whether you think you benefited or not from that claim,” he said. “It’s the fact that you tried to benefit from that claim that I think bothers a lot of people.”

Both candidates said they're in favor of high-speed rail service connecting Springfield to Boston. The issue is a constant in western Massachusetts, and nearly all politicians campaigning in the region say they support it in some form.

Diehl said he thinks a market-based approach would be best.

"We’re currently having a tough time affording the rail system we have," he said. "So maybe we look at private partnerships to get rail back out here. That’s how this country and this state first started: private industry."

According to Warren, an infrastructure bill in Congress could provide money for the rail service, as well as broadband internet service in the Berkshires.

“We could do that, except for the fact that the Republicans -- Mr. Diehl, Donald Trump -- have given away a trillion-and-a-half dollars to billionaires and giant corporations,” Warren said, referencing a tax bill passed under President Trump last year.

Rhetoric in the debate was sharp, but Warren and Diehl stuck to their time limits.

Outside the studios, independent candidate Shiva Ayyadurai argued with police as he tried to get into the debate. He's vying for Warren's seat as well, and was not invited to participate because of his low polling numbers.

But that didn't stop several of Ayyadurai's supporters from interrupting the debate.

Police escorted at least four people from the room, handcuffing at least three of them.

Ayyadurai will appear on the ballot, but is not slated to participate in a final debate between Warren and Diehl scheduled for October 30.

Take a look at NEPR's Massachusetts General Election Voter Guide 2018.

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