By Grant Welker
LOWELL -- Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, and possibly their Republican counterparts, will debate at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Monday, April 8.
Two Democrats and three Republicans are seeking to replace John Kerry, who resigned his Senate seat to become secretary of state. Democrats Stephen Lynch and Edward Markey -- colleagues in the U.S. House -- have confirmed they will participate in the debate.
The Republicans, businessman Gabriel Gomez, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Dan Winslow, have also been invited to participate but had not confirmed as of Thursday.
The Lynch-Markey debate will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Durgin Hall at 35 Wilder St. The Republicans would debate at 6 p.m.
UMass Lowell and the Boston Herald will sponsor the event. They also sponsored debates with Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in 2011 and 2012.
Student panelists from UMass Lowell will ask questions of the candidates, and students from across Massachusetts will be invited to attend, the university said. Jaclyn Cashman, a former TV news reporter and founder of golocalworcester.com, will moderate.
A UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll released earlier this month found Markey ahead of Lynch by nearly 30 percentage points among potential Democratic primary voters. Markey also led the three Republican candidates by double digits in potential head-to-head races.
A recent WBUR poll, conducted by The Mass INC Polling Group, showed Markey leading Lynch by 11 percentage points.
On the Republican side, Sullivan had an 18-percentage-point lead over Winslow, a legislator from Norfolk. Two percentage points separated Winslow and Gomez.
"The election of the next U.S. senator from Massachusetts this year could not be more important," said Frank Talty, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion.
"Even though this is a special election, the person chosen could, like Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry, serve the citizens of the commonwealth for many years, if not decades, to come. It is imperative that voters get to know the candidates that seek to fill this seat. The debate here at UMass Lowell can ensure that voters make an educated choice for this important position."
The primary is April 30. The general election is June 25.
The five candidates had their first debate Wednesday night. Another is scheduled for April 22, sponsored by WBZ and The Boston Globe.