Gloves came off Saturday between Cape & Islands Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and Republican challenger John Flores, a Barnstable town councilor from Cummaquid.

DENNIS — The gloves came off Saturday between Cape & Islands Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and Republican challenger John Flores, a Barnstable town councilor from Cummaquid, over lead paint, legislative pay raises and arming teachers. The two shared the stage at the Cape Cinema for the first session of a debate co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Cape Cod Area and the Cape Cod Times.

In what could be considered a less tense exchange, 9th Congressional District Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., and Republican challenger Peter Tedeschi seemed to agree on several issues, although Tedeschi called for term limits and pointed to Keating as a “career politician.”

Keating, who lives in Bourne, is a former Norfolk County district attorney first elected to Congress in 2010. Tedeschi, a South Shore native, is the former president and CEO of his family’s 200-store convenience store chain, Tedeschi Food Shops. The company was successful and also strongly supported programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Tedeschi said.

As a way to unlock potential House opposition to Massachusetts initiatives, Tedeschi called for more outreach across party lines and getting to know other House members. Keating, in turn, called for more transparency and more hearings.

On easing visa blocks for foreign-born seasonal workers, Keating said the Trump administration has instituted a convoluted process that can easily be fixed but needs a willing majority in the House. Tedeschi said his company has experienced new shortages with their foreign workers and that he appreciates that tourism is the Cape’s “economic engine.”

“But it’s not just about the visas,” Tedeschi said. He called for better bridges to the Cape, improving nitrogen levels in the water and more workforce housing.

Both Tedeschi and Keating opposed the separation of immigrant families. Keating called for a change in the House majority to improve checks and balances, while Tedeschi said he would challenge the president.

“The separation of children at the border is not about who we are and it’s just not right,” Tedeschi said, adding that he is in favor of giving a pathway to citizenship if immigrants can pay their own way and respect U.S. laws. But public safety of U.S. citizens is a priority, by securing borders and making sure there are no safe harbors for anyone with intentions to do harm, he said.

Both candidates generally supported insurance coverage for pre-existing health conditions, more services for addictions and mental health conditions, and preventing voter suppression.

Both candidates also stressed the importance of voters getting to the polls.

“This is the most important election in my lifetime,” Keating said. “Our basic values are threatened.”

An estimated 300 people attended Saturday's forum.

In the first part of the forum, Cyr, a former state public health policy director elected in 2016, read what he said was a transcript of a March radio show where Flores supported the idea of arming teachers.

“Guns have no place in the schools,” Cyr said to Flores, a former high school and college administrator.

Cyr cited state leaders, school administrators, teachers and students who have come out against the idea. “You spent your career as an educator, how can you be for this?” he said.

Flores clarified that if a teacher already has a background as a police officer or is a veteran with gun training, then he would consider allowing that person to carry a gun. Not teachers in general, Flores said. He said his position was misrepresented by Cyr.

“The last place that we want guns are in schools,” Flores said. “Anything that we can consider to protect children in public schools is something I would consider. I would leave nothing off the table."

On a different topic, Flores accused Cyr of taking special interest money from the insurance industry with two bills he filed that Flores said allowed lead poisoning thresholds to increase by 100 percent.

“You suggest that you really care about kids, you care about adults,” Flores said. “I want to ask you why you did the bidding of the insurance industry and endangered the lives of children, especially infants and toddlers.”

Cyr said the bills enshrined the work he did to update state regulations on childhood lead poisoning when he was working at the state Department of Public Health.

“Now we know that almost any lead poisoning can have adverse effects particularly for children who are 5 and above,” Cyr said.

Cyr said he’d never talked to anyone in the insurance industry. “I’d be thrilled if they came to me,” Cyr said.

“It’s an anti-infant, toddler bill, you should be ashamed,” Flores said.

“I’m very proud,” Cyr said.

Cyr said he expected some heat over his approval of a compensation package for legislators that increased his own salary by $7,500 a year to a total of $82,000.

“I want to make sure that people from all walks of life are able to run for public office and are able to serve,” he said. “I knew I would get flak for it.”

Citing the possibility that only millionaires and retirees will be able to run for office, Cyr said, “Our representative democracy is eroding because of money in our politics.”

Flores contended that Cyr's pay increase was $40,000.

“You can go online and look at it,” Flores said. “It shows it’s over $100,000. It shows a lack of judgment.”

The millions in the compensation package could have gone to town and school needs, Flores said.

“Yet, the Legislature had the audacity to put that kind of money in their pockets,” he said.

— Follow Mary Ann Bragg on Twitter: @maryannbraggCCT.