BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and Democrat challenger Elizabeth Warren squared off on Thursday in their first face-to-face debate.
Discussions included jobs, taxes, the economy, the US Government’s fiscal cliff, the war in Afghanistan, women’s issues and Warren’s Native American heritage claim.
Both candidates came out swinging as moderator Jon Keller began with a question about whether character plays a role in the race.
WATCH: Full Senate Debate
Brown used it to immediately go after Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry.
The senator called on his competitor to release her personnel records to prove she didn’t have an advantage of minority status when she was hired as a professor at Harvard University.
Warren denied ever taking advantage of her proclaimed heritage, citing former employers who have said her heritage played no role in hiring, and continued to stand by her claim.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker spoke with Jon Keller
She stated that growing up, her parents both told her she was Native American and she had no reason to question it.
“This is my family, this is who I am, and it’s not going to change,” Warren said.
Taxes & Spending
Warren went after Brown’s voting record on taxes, claiming that by voting against President Obama’s tax cut proposal, and his refusal to negotiate on extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts, he’s holding 98% of taxpayers hostage.
Brown responded that he wants to protect hard-working job creators.
“I’m not going to raise taxes on our job creators, those small and medium sized businesses… who pass through ordinary income and are considered the so-called wealthy,” Brown responded. “I’m going to fight for every taxpayer. So once again, her criticism of me is that I’m not going to raise taxes, and that’s an accurate criticism.”
On the US Government’s fiscal cliff, Brown said he would push to reform the tax code and military spending, and reduce corporate tax rates in an effort to create more jobs.
“We can’t continue to spend and spend our way out of this,” Brown said. “The only way we’re going to get this done is to actually work together in a truly bipartisan manner.”
Warren called for a balance approach with cuts to agriculture subsidies and defense, ending the war in Afghanistan and raising taxes. She also accused Brown of siding with big oil companies, pointing out his votes against ending oil subsidies.
“(We) need to ask others to pay their fair share,” she said.
Warren criticized Brown’s record for his vote in favor of an exemption on insurance-covered birth control.
“I guess the way I see this is the women in Massachusetts deserve a senator they can count on not some of the time, but a senator they can count on all of the time,” she said.
“You should stop scaring women, professor. Because I’ve been fighting for women since I was six years old,” Brown responded. “I’m going to fight for the rights of Catholics to practice their faith. I’m not going to pit women against their church and their faith. I want to have people to have contraceptive care.”
Military Action In Iran
Brown and Warren argued over approach to handling Iran’s nuclear ambitions. However, neither would rule out the use of military force to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
The debate almost didn’t happen. Brown was in Washington earlier in the day, and with the Senate in session, Brown told WBZ-TV debate moderator Jon Keller he would remain there until voting had ended for the day, even if it meant missing the debate. He managed to make his flight on time, but not before both parties accused the other of intentionally holding up the vote so Brown would miss the debate.
Recent polls show a tight race for the seat that Brown has held for the last two years.
In 2010, Brown defeated Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election for the seat formerly held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy.