BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) A famous family name and an outstanding debt were among the tough topics addressed on Thursday by the candidates in the Fourth Congressional District race.
Joe Kennedy III and Sean Bielat faced off as they both worked to prove that they're the right man to replace retiring Rep. Barney Frank in a taped debate for WCVB. While both candidates devoted most of the time to explaining their views and opinions, they did throw the occasional criticism at each other.
The first, and perhaps most memorable, moment of criticism in the debate came as both candidates were explaining what they feel makes them qualified to hold office. Sean Bielat voiced his opinion that Kennedy would not be considered qualified for office in any other state or district in the nation.
"Other than fame that comes with your family and the money that comes with it, you don't have the background. You have about 2 1/2 years of work experience," said Bielat. "This is no attack on your character as a person. I think you seem like a great guy, but you just don't have the qualifications that are required for this office particularly at this point in the U.S. history."
Bielat's "U.S. history" comment alludes to a moment earlier in the debate when he argued that his military service and business background gave him the qualifications for the job in a time when the economy and foreign policy are major issues for the country.
Kennedy responded by saying that the real issue of this race is ensuring people are getting access to opportunities. He also said since the beginning of the campaign he has been speaking to people about what issues they are facing and that falls right into what he's done his entire life.
"I, quite frankly, I'm proud of my record of public service, I'm proud of representing the people of Massachusetts in court I'm proud of standing up for victims and I think that is qualification enough," says Kennedy.
Following that response, the grandson of Robert Kennedy was asked whether or not he'd be receiving so much attention if his last name were not Kennedy.
"I am grateful for all the support that I've gotten. I'm honored by my family's legacy of public service and what they've done here in Mass. and for our country, but from day one it's been my name on the ballot and I've gone out each and every day to try to let people know who I am, the values that I hold, what I am going to fight for, and the vision I have for the Fourth District and for the country," responded Kennedy.
Later in the debate, Sean Bielat also had to answer a difficult question related to debt from his 2010 campaign. As of August, Bielat owed two businesses a total of $30,000 from his race against Barney Frank two years ago.
"One of them we weren't contractually obligated to so that is sort of a misnomer and the second we're in dispute with because they were responsible for so many of the filing errors that were made on our FEC returns so that's an ongoing dispute," explained Bielat.
When asked if he could say how much he still owes, Bielat said he'd have to see the report.
Kennedy was then asked if he saw anything wrong with not paying bills due to a legal dispute.
"It's certainly something I think Sean needs to answer, I think the way you run a campaign is reflective of how you're gonna govern, but ultimately that's up to the voters to decide," said Kennedy.