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Baker, Coakley fail to highlight differences

Date: 10/2/2014


SPRINGFIELD – Political pundits watch a political debate, such as the one on Sept. 29 at CityStage featuring the five gubernatorial candidates, in the same way fight fans watch a heavyweight bout.

They both look for a clear winner and preferably a knockout. That is far more difficult when there are five combatants on stage in a debate format that doesn’t allow give and take between the candidates.

It was pretty clear that while there were several compelling moments in the debate, there was no knockout and little blood on the floor.

Under the questioning of Jim Madigan of WBGY, the five candidates made some headway in defining themselves, but there was a general consensus among some members of the press that Attorney General Martha Coakley and Charles Baker may not have sharpened the differences between their candidacies.

After the debate Coakley affirmed, “There are a lot of differences between Charlie Baker and not just tonight but in the course of this race.” She said she believes in early education, paid sick time and would be willing to invest in children and workforce development.

Baker said, “I think the most important thing I bring to the table is a comprehensive vision to grow jobs and build great communities across the Commonwealth. We’ve put that on our website. We’ve put specific details out there.”

He continued that his private sector experience, as well as his service during the Weld Administration defines those differences. “I can actually deliver on what I talk about,” he added.

The lines of differences were more clearly seen with the three independent candidates: Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively and Jeff McCormack. If nothing else, the forum gave these three contenders a valuable opportunity to deliver their messages.

Falchuk positioned himself as the reformer, questioning conventional logic of government. Lively would apply his fundamentalist Christian theology in shrinking and reshaping the state. McCormack’s experience as a businessman who has created jobs would guide his efforts to rebuild the state’s economy.

Falchuk said the value of the debate was that voters “hear a direct real exchange of not only ideas, but actual polices that will happen in the next administration. I think you heard the difference between the vague platitudes we get from the political establishment and what it means to talk in really specific direct ways about how were going to do the things we have to do in the next administration.”

Falchuk acknowledges the poll numbers indicate his candidacy is difficult at best, but maintained that Bay State voters are looking not just for independent candidates but a new party to bring reform to state government. 

“It’s strange to say, but it’s still early in the race,” Falchuk said.

McCormack also acknowledged the challenge of running without the structure or support of a party.

He added, though, “Where ever you go in the Commonwealth everyone says we want a change we want someone who has real world experience creating jobs and want someone who is not tied to any special interests or the status quo.”

Lively said after the debate that he was satisfied by the experience. “The voters now know there is only one pro-family candidate who holds genuinely conservative positions on the issues,” he said.

Lively who has become known internationally for his anti-homosexual activism, said he is sorry he offends people, “but I’m not going to start legitimizing sexual perversion just because they’re unhappy.”

Lively believes the liberal voters will be spilt four ways giving conservative voters the opportunity to elect him.

The most pointed moment of the night was when Baker reacted to what he believed was a veiled criticism by Lively about his gay brother. Lively later denied that was his intent.

The first issue brought up by Madigan was the casino repeal. Baker repeated his opinion that no matter what happens, he would work to have Springfield’s casino made reality. Coakley was against repeal. Falchuk was against repeal saying the casino question had already been settled. Lively said he would vote to repeal based on biblical and moral grounds while McCormack said he would support repeal because of the negative effects on small businesses.

On strengthening the economy of Western Massachusetts, Coakley said she would develop “strong regional economic plans.” Falchuk said he understands the importance of rail connection in the region, but said he would want to give municipalities more funding and the governmental tools to help develop their own solutions. Lively said Massachusetts has developed a “Marxist perspective” and he would go back to “localism.” McCormack said the growth would be from small businesses and advocated for the creation of enterprise zones. Baker said he would meet with mayors to determine “three or four things that really need to get done.” he added, “they need to know what they plan is.”

On improving higher education, Falchuk said he supports more funding and added, “The priorities of the state are completely backwards.” He has proposed a plan to make the state’s community colleges free to attend. Lively was against any increase as it would be an additional burden on the taxpayer. McCormack wants to see a stronger trade and vocational school system that would work with a stronger state higher education to meet the unfilled jobs in the Commonwealth. Baker would continue to invest in higher education and said costs could be contained by developing online classes and greater partnership with the private sector through cooperative education. Coakley said supporting early education and making sure students can read at grade level at third grade would be her goal as well as looking at extended learning time.

On supporting universal pre-K, Lively said the government shouldn’t take away children from their parents who should be more involved in their child’s education. He advocated for more home school and that government schools should have the least priority. McCormack, Baker and Coakley all voiced support for some expansion of the program. Falchuk said he supported it as well but the funding to support it wasn’t available as long as the Legislature approves such projects as a $1.3 billion expansion of the Boston Convention Center.