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Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate issues

Karen Morales
Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate issues
Former Newton Mayor Setti Warren, activist and author Bob Massie and former Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez.

The three Democratic candidates running for governor answered questions last week on a variety of issues including where they stood on criminal justice reform, race relations, transportation and the environment at a Suffolk University forum.

Candidates Setti Warren, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie share many of the same progressive views, but bring with them their own individual experiences and ideas on how to implement their agenda.

Organized by the Suffolk University College Democrats, an undergraduate student organization, the March 8 forum was open to both students and the general public, with questions submitted by those in attendance.

The student organization’s president, Matthew Cubetus, said with the State House right down the street from the school, he and his peers wanted the opportunity to learn more about the candidates, face to face. “Everyone deserves to hear where the candidates stand on issues and to get involved in democratic process,” Cubetus said.

The candidates began with opening statements, each one eager to differentiate himself from current Governor Charlie Baker.

“Baker, he sticks with the status quo and is a wait-and-see governor,” said Gonzalez, who is from Needham and formerly served as secretary of finance to Deval Patrick. “I will fight for debt-free college, improved transportation system, [and] address the opioid crisis, climate change and the criminal justice system.”

Massie, who battled hemophilia as a child and became a lifelong activist for social justice, addressed the majority-student audience, saying that he would work on issues where “my generation has failed your generation,” such as affordable higher education, climate change and the health care system.

Warren, who was mayor of Newton and an Iraq war veteran, said he would focus on updating the Chapter 70 education funding formula, increasing early education funding and finding new streams of revenue to address the opioid epidemic.

Public safety

The candidates were questioned on how they would address sexual assault and gun control and whether they support the Safe Communities Act.

All three said they do support the Safe Communities Act, would work toward stricter gun legislation and would take sexual assault allegations seriously on Beacon Hill.

“This governor has not done enough [for immigrants],” said Massie. “He previously supported the Syrian ban. He did not speak out against TPS termination. Yes, I support the act and I would have a dramatically different attitude towards immigration if I became governor.”

Gonzalez said, “I’ve also met with women restaurant workers who, because they have to rely on tips, have to tolerate sexual assault from customers. We have to get rid of sub-wages in the restaurant industry so that workers are no longer dependent on tips.”

Warren commented that he supports sensitivity training for employees and a fair reporting structure for sexual assault victims. “In Newton we implemented an all-employee tolerance training,” he said.

Criminal justice

When discussing criminal justice reform, Warren said he would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences and get rid of cash bail.

Gonzalez said, “We need comprehensive criminal justice reform. It’s the civil rights issue of our time.” With addiction as one of the underlying causes of crime, he said he would invest more in treatment for the addicted, and even suggested trying innovative approaches such as safe injection sites.

Massie said that another big issue affecting crime is racism and the cycles of poverty and inequality. He also said he supports police body cameras for increased police accountability.

Warren pointed to his work as mayor in Newton where he implemented mandatory bias training at the police department as something he would work to replicate across the state.

The environment

When asked how he would address climate change in Massachusetts, Massie said that that state government is not meeting the challenge and that he would accelerate solar energy and eliminate net meter caps for solar customers.

Warren said that as Newton mayor, he expanded solar energy in low-income communities and as governor, would add more resiliency infrastructure to prepare for flooding.

Gonzalez said, “The governor right now has no leadership on the issue. He’s making decisions to benefit Eversource by introducing new fees to solar customers. This is our biggest threat, happening now. We need leadership on this.”

Public Transit

On public transportation, Massie said, “The key to prosperity for everyone is a modern, reliable transit system.”

Both Gonzalez and Warren said they would sign legislation for the so-called “millionaire tax” to make investments in improving and expanding the MBTA system.

Candidate priorities

Massie, a progressive activist who has spoken out against big banks and corporations and has fought for a more sustainable planet, runs his campaign focused on big-picture issues and aims to provide a living wage, single-payer health care system and sustainable green energy and jobs in Massachusetts.

Gonzalez also touts a single-payer health care system and supports making Massachusetts the first state to adopt carbon pricing. As a former health insurance executive, he is known in the state for use of innovative strategies to address opioid addiction.

Warren, the first popularly-elected African American mayor in Massachusetts, has served two terms as mayor of Newton. He said he wants to continue fighting for economic equality in Massachusetts with strategies like free public college, single-payer health care and a modernized public transportation system.

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