Earlier today, congressional hopefuls Joe Kennedy III and Sean Bielat debated at WCVB-TV. I'd love to be able to tell you what happened, but I can't — it is (for now) the lone televised debate of the race, and there's an embargo on web and print coverage that runs through 11:30 pm tonight. (You can watch the proceedings Sunday at 11 am on Channel 5.)
What I can do, though, is recount what the candidates said afterward. Let's start with Bielat — who made it clear that he sees Kennedy as an unqualified naif who's running on his family name and not much else.
"He's not qualified for the office," Bielat claimed. "There is nobody who would accept a candidate who had as little experience as he does — two to five years of being an assistant attorney, assistant prosecutor — as sufficient to run for Congress."
"He has been unwilling until today to go in front of cameras and reporters to talk about his views," Bielat added. "And if you can't defend your views publicly, you're not ready for the job."
For the record, Bielat's statement that Kennedy has been "unwilling...to go in front of cameras and reporters" isn't quite true. If members of the media can get down to the Fourth Congressional District, it's not hard to catch Kennedy on the campaign trail. But what Kennedy hasn't done — as we discussed on a recent Beat the Press segment — is make the TV rounds to talk with the usual suspects (Jon Keller, Jim Braude, my colleague Emily Rooney, etc.) about his campaign.
What's more, Kennedy is only debating Bielat three times — and for now, just one of those will televised. Today, Kennedy told me that three debates are enough — while also hinting that he's open to televising the remaining two.
"I believe the media's invited to the other [debates] as well, so they're certainly welcome to come," Kennedy said. "If they want to televise them and work with the organizers, we're certainly happy to do that.
"Sean, during the course of his Republican primary — about an eight or nine-month race — debated his opponents, I think, four times," Kennedy continued. "We're doing three debates in a span of eight or nine weeks."
I also asked Kennedy if — given his robust campaign schedule and background as an assistant DA, legal-aid attorney, and Peace Corps volunteer — he's frustrated by Bielat's claim that his family name is the only reason he's taken seriously.
"It's a question on people's minds," Kennedy replied. "And to the extent that it is still a question, I still need to answer it.
"That's part of the reason why we have run such an aggressive campaign, in trying to get out there and meet as many people as we can. But it is something that, as long as people still have questions about it, as long as people still want to ask about it, I'm happy to answer."
Kennedy and Bielat's next debate takes place October 10 at UMass Dartmouth.