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Ed Markey, Steve Lynch tangle in Lowell during second Democratic TV debate in US Senate race

House Democrats Steve Lynch and Ed Markey returned to familiar policy terrain in their second televised debate of their US Senate primary, while opting for a more civil tone than their first session last month.

Both criticized President Obama’s use of lethal drones. Lynch, who has made 14 trips to Iraq and eight to Afghanistan, noted that the US faces “limited choices,” but said the US may have incurred diplomatic injury abroad.

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“What we’ve done here is, by incautious use of drones, we’ve really hurt ourselves, hurt our standing in many ways,” he said.

Markey lined up with Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who has been outspoken in criticizing the administration’s use of drones. The Malden Democrat said he was “glad” that Paul had waged a filibuster of more than 12 hours, during the debate over CIA director John Brennan’s nomination.

“It’s a good way to use the filibuster in the Senate,” Markey says.

For the second debate in a row, Lynch faced consecutive questions on issues where he has either struggled to explain shifts or has suffered political consequences. A student panel asked questions on Lynch’s Affordable Care Act, his record on abortion policy, and gay marriage. Moderator Jaclyn Cashman followed with a question about Lynch’s past positions on gay rights, which the South Boston Democrat tried to downplay, instead emphasizing his work in Congress on behalf of gay couples.

Markey appeared to stumble slightly when asked how he squared the work of one of his campaign advisers --veteran Boston public affairs specialist Larry Rasky -- on behalf of the controversial Keystone pipeline. Markey has been critical of the pipeline, and a California billionaire has spent over $400,000 in Massachusetts hammering Lynch over his refusal to oppose the project outright.

In closing statements, both candidates went heavily autobiographical. Lynch said he thought his upbringing in public housing, his time spent standing in an unemployment line, and his experience strapping on workboots for a paycheck would add a fresh perspective to the US Senate. “I’m not saying that every US senator should have worked for a living,” quipped Lynch.

Markey recounted visiting the three-decker where his father grew up and finding a Dominican family in residence. The accents were different, he said, but the family’s aspirations remained the same.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at James.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.
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