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In A Heated Debate, Galvin And Amore Clash Over Trump, Election Security, And Personal Credibility

Secretary of State William Galvin agreed to only one debate against election opponent Anthony Amore, but the single 30 minute engagement produced enough light and heat to illuminate the race for the state's top elections officer.

The two traded barbs and ad hominem attacks on everything from election security, President Trump's immigration policies and the frequency with which Amore did — or didn't — vote.

The debate ended with the challenger calling the 20-year incumbent a "liar", and Galvin calling Amore a "faker".

Amore came to the debate, moderated by WGBH's Jim Braude, armed with a litany of critiques of Galvin's years in office and focused his message on making the state's voting system more secure. The challenger said Galvin isn't doing enough to modernize the 12-year-old paper ballot system.

Amore said Galvin's request for funds from the federal Department of Homeland Security to enhance security shows that the system is vulnerable.

"Twelve years old is too old. That's why you requested more funding from Homeland Security," Amore said, before Galvin injected "It works."

"The only reason you're saying it works is because nothing's happened yet," Amore countered.

Galvin's debate tactic will be familiar to anyone who's seen Galvin's fellow Democrats in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races try to link their own opponents to the unpopular policies of the Trump White House.

"Republicans are into having fewer people vote. I'm into having more people vote," Galvin said, which Amore called "demagoguery."

Galvin accused Amore of supporting Trump's plan to stop access to the U.S. for nationals from several majority-Muslim countries soon after his inauguration. Galvin provided WGBH with screen captures of tweets from Amore's account that he says prove Amore's support for Trump's original travel ban, which was struck down by a federal court.

In one tweet directed at then-Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka and others, Amore wrote "Fortunately, there is no Muslim ban, as more than 1 billion Muslims aren't affected." In two tweets replying to then-acting-Attorney General Sally Yates, who openly opposed Trump's plan, Amore accused Yates of "grandstanding" and "you could have discussed it with him and resigned with dignity instead of seeking attention."

Amore's campaign spokesman Mark Steffen told WGBH News that the tweets do not amount to support for Trump's controversial travel ban.

"Amore was talking semantics, not the validity of a sweeping ban based on religion," Steffen said.

Amore, the former head of federal security at Logan Airport as well as the former security head at the Gardner Museum (post-heist) asked Galvin to produce a strategic plan for the future of election security and for the secretary's office in general.

"There's no strategic plan from this office. There's no vision. There's no mission statement. There's no plan that tells the people of Massachusetts what the secretary intends to do over the next few years. There's no plan to tell the stakeholders what he intends to do," Amore said.

Galvin called the strategic plans "bureaucratic babble" and said that voters have plenty of faith in the state's existing voting system in the age of vote tampering and digital hacking.

"They have a lot of confidence. They put their name on a paper ballot, put their mark on a paper ballot. Our lists are secure. Our system is not on the internet. We were not hacked when many states were," Galvin said.

Galvin repeated a technique he used against Democratic primary opponent Josh Zakim over the summer and used Amore's own voting record against him, saying that Amore has missed 14 elections and several town meetings in Swampscott, where he was an elected meeting member from 2008 to 2011.

Amore said family and work commitments kept him from voting regularly and attending town meetings.

The debate got testier as it went on. In the final minutes, Galvin accused Amore of exaggerating his role in the apprehension of "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid in late 2001. Galvin said Amore took responsibility for "collaring" Reid, a charge Amore denies.

"You're a liar," Amore said to Galvin.

"And you're a faker," Galvin replied.

A Boston Herald article about Amore from 2008 says of his Logan Airport role "he ran the show when shoe bomber Richard Reid was collared in December 2001." Amore himself is not quoted using the word "collared."

Election day is Nov. 6. Early voting is available in most communities until Nov. 2.

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