Dem. candidates agree on issues in gov’s race
Housing, economic development, education discussed
The democratic contenders for Massachusetts governor said little to define their differences Monday night at a RoxVote-sponsored debate held at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square and moderated by Meghan Irons and Adrian Walker of the Boston Globe.
Asked what they would do to make improvements to Roxbury Community College, all three candidates spoke about the importance of funding community colleges and allowing students to graduate without debt.
At one point moderator Irons asked candidate Bob Massie, an entrepreneur and activist, whether he had a rebuttal to the other candidates’ answers. He gave a reply that could have applied to many of the responses over the course of the evening.
“I think we’ve all pretty much said the same thing,” he said.
By the time Massie, former Newton Mayor Setti Warren and former Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez reached the criminal justice portion of the debate, their alignment on the issues became almost comical.
“Should all police departments in the state have body cameras?” asked Walker.
The three candidates expressed varying degrees of agreement on a range of issues — increased funding for public education, support for the criminal justice reform legislation that recently passed the House and Senate, increased investment in the state’s public transit infrastructure and support for more affordable housing.
Even in their opening statements the candidates touched on similar themes.
“I got into this race because of the defining issue of our times: economic inequality,” Warren said.
“The system as a whole is rigged and the economy is upside down,” Massie said.
Gonzalez, while supporting economic reforms, positioned himself opposite incumbent Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, whom he described as lacking vision.
“He’s a status quo, wait-and-see governor,” Gonzalez said. “We need a governor who can see the world the way it’s going to be and take us there.”
All three candidates said they would support the will of the voters to implement retail marijuana operations in Massachusetts. Warren and Gonzalez said they did not support the ballot question legalizing marijuana. Massie said he did.
Asked whether they supported the efforts of Baker and some Massachusetts mayors to attract a second headquarters for Amazon, each candidate expressed varying degrees of opposition.
Massie said he would not support tax breaks for Amazon to relocate to Massachusetts, adding that the Baker administration erred in providing breaks to General Electric. He said he worried about Amazon’s reputation for eliminating retail jobs and the impact a headquarters would have on the state’s housing stock.
Warren said he would support the firm opening a headquarters in Worcester, provided it ponied up funds to help develop a high-speed rail corridor connecting the city to Boston and Western Massachusetts.
Gonzalez said rather than offering tax incentives to firms such as Amazon, the state should make investments in its transportation system, housing stock and public education system.
“If we do those things well, businesses will want to be here,” he said.
All three candidates said they would work to revamp the state’s Chapter 70 education funding, which a legislative committee last year found has been underfunding education in Massachusetts by more than $1 billion.
Warren added that he would push for free public colleges in the state, raising taxes on wealthier state residents to pay for it.
“We’ve got to ask people who are doing well to contribute more,” he said.
Gonzalez said he supports the Fair Share Amendment, which would raise the tax on income above $1 million in Massachusetts.
Later in the debate, Massie said he would support a public higher education system where students could get through without incurring debt, without necessarily making it free to all.
“I don’t think we should make it free for families who can afford to pay,” he said.
Attendees at Monday’s debate braved a bevy of campaign staff and volunteers collecting signatures for various office-seekers. It is shaping up to be a year of exceptional political activity, with a competitive 13-way race for the 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by Nikki Tsongas; the 7th Congressional District race between incumbent Michael Capuano and at-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley; and a four-way race for the Suffolk County district attorney seat.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidates will face off against each other in the Sept. 4 state primary. The winner will then face Baker in the November election.