NORTON — The two Democratic candidates for state Senate Friday took opposing positions on health care and commuter rail for Foxboro in a cable television debate.
Ted Philips of Sharon and Paul Feeney of Foxboro were complimentary toward one another and mostly in agreement in the one-hour debate, despite parting ways on the two issues.
Feeney started the forum by saying “you won’t find a lot of daylight” between him and Philips on issues. Then said one exception is that he favors single-payer health care whereas Philips does not.
Single-payer is similar to Medicare for everyone in that the government would provide the health insurance and it would be paid for out of tax money.
Feeney, a Verizon employee and labor union official, said he favors having Massachusetts move toward a single-payer system to control costs and provide universal coverage.
Philips, a former legislative aide, said single-payer is a noble idea, but it is unaffordable, probably costing taxpayers “tens of billions of dollars.”
He said Vermont and California planned on trying it, but pulled back because of costs. Single-payer can only work on a national, not state, level, he said.
The other area of obvious disagreement was over the MBTA’s plan to bring commuter rail on a trial basis to Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place in Foxboro.
Although both men agreed the MBTA is a mess, Feeney said he supports the Foxboro line proposal while Philips said he opposes it.
Philips said the MBTA has a long list of problems that need fixing before it goes expanding into places such as Foxboro. The train would also create a public safety problem as it crossed roads in South Walpole with the MBTA refusing to put up protective gates, he said.
The MBTA has many financial problems and the Foxboro line would create a $750,000 deficit, he said.
Feeney agreed the MBTA is a “disaster,” and a “crumbling system,” but said public transportation can be an economic stimulus and that is what he believes will happen in Foxboro.
Plus, he said, finding parking at existing commuter rail stations such as the one in Mansfield is “a nightmare” that Foxboro would help relieve.
Feeney said he understands the public safety concerns as he lives close to the rail line and will work to mitigate problems if elected.
The debate was sponsored by the Norton Media Center and the Norton Democratic Town Committee.
The candidates are in a Sept. 19 special election primary to pick finalists for a general special election Oct. 17.
It was the only debate of the campaign and there have no debates among Republican candidates Michael Berry, Harry Brousaide, and Tim Hempton of Walpole along with Jacob Ventura of Attleboro.
Norton Town Moderator Bill Gouveia asked the questions and later said it was one of the better debates he has handled over the years.
On other issues, Philips and Feeney were mostly in agreement.
They said the state formula for distributing school aid needs to be modernized and aid increased.
Feeney added he would like to do away with the “punitive” aspects of the MCAS tests while Philips said it is unfair how much money charter schools take from traditional public schools.
As Democrats, they disagreed with Gouveia’s suggestion that the Norfolk-Bristol District they are running in is more suited for a Republican senator.
Philips said if a Democrat gets elected, he would automatically get an influential chairmanship of a committee.
Feeney said Democrats stand up for people, noting he and Philips both attended recent rallies against racism.
The district they are running in includes half of Attleboro, all of Seekonk, Rehoboth, Norton, Mansfield, and Walpole and sections of Sharon and Medfield.