Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates faced off Tuesday about health care, terrorism and the economy in a debate moderated by WBZ-TV News Political Analyst Jon Keller, with less than one month before the election.
The debate, with Democratic candidate and current Massachusetts Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley, Republican candidate Charlie Baker, and independent candidates Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick, opened by examining the Massachusetts government’s failures under Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
“The Commonwealth took its eye off the ball,” Baker said.
On the topic of the economy, Coakley advocated for an investment in early education, paid sick time for workers and more computers and technology in schools. Lively said if he were elected governor, taxes would go down substantially.
“I would like to give back every dollar that I am able to save by streamlining and downsizing government,” he said. “Massachusetts is just outrageous. We are spending money that we don’t have, and prices are just going up and up and up.”
The debate came in the wake of an Oct. 2 Boston Globe poll indicating that Coakley has slipped behind Baker, who holds a 3 percent lead over Coakley, 39 percent to 36 percent, respectively.
On Friday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh endorsed Coakley, the same day U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama also supported the Democratic candidate.
Falchuk said the high cost of living is driven by “health care costs and how much it costs to go to the hospital.”
With regard to the question of whether Boston is at risk for terrorism, Lively said the city is at risk because it is in a liberal state, similar to countries as England or the Netherlands.
The candidates agreed there is an increased risk because of Boston’s cosmopolitan and influential nature, rather than its politics. Coakley stressed increased communication and threat detection tools, while Falchuck said the Commonwealth should focus on keeping residents safe from terror and from losing their civil rights.
Baker said he believed the biggest problem people had with government surveillance is that they were doing it without informing people, and it is important to be forthright and transparent.
“We are a terrific location geographically,” Baker said. “As governor, there is no single priority that should be higher than the protection … of the people.”
Lively asserted that border control was crucial to solving this issue.
“It wouldn’t be that we’d have so many things hidden from us if he hadn’t brought so many troublemakers into our country,” Lively said.
On the question of the Affordable Care Act, Coakley defended the health care reform.
“People come from all over the world to get their health care here,” she said. “Let’s cover people. Let’s keep its quality. Now let’s address cost. That’s what we’re doing now.”
McCormick reiterated his belief that an emphasis on primary care was important, while Baker said he would ensure that people in Massachusetts, rather than in Washington, D.C., would make decisions regarding health care.
The final question raised by Keller was whether the candidates would honor the Initiative Petition Process, the process for initiatives to appear on the ballot, or if they favored a repeal of it. In a rare moment, all of the candidates said they support the process.
The next governor needs to be someone who can unite the Commonwealth’s people, McCormick said.
“We have to have a governor who can bring people together,” he said. “It does not make sense if we are all physically fit and fiscally bankrupt. We have to do this together.”