BOSTON — There was a rare Primary Day debate among three of the gubernatorial candidates Tuesday night — who were all spared nomination battles.
At a venue in Braintree, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, his Republican challenger, Charles Baker, and Independent candidate Tim Cahill debated their records, taxes, energy policy and how best to create jobs. The meeting began quietly — but the gloves came off quickly.
The lineup for the governor’s race has been settled for some time, which allowed the candidates to get an early jump on the post-primary debate season. Patrick, Baker and Cahill argued on Dan Rea’s “Nightside” program on WBZ-AM.
Rea said he wanted a conversation — not a debate. But it didn’t work out that way.
One of the only moments of agreement came early on when Rea asked the candidates if Massachusetts workers are taxed too little, too much or just right.
“Too much,” Cahill said.
“Maybe too much,” Patrick said.
“Too much,” Baker said.
“We have agreement on a question, I think they should get applause for that,” Rea said.
Candidates Go After Gov. Patrick
After that there was no more applause for agreement. Baker — who worked in the Weld administration — continued to cast himself as the experienced reformer. He chided Patrick for over-spending and being out of touch with voters.
“I talk to people every day, and one of the things I hear over and over again from them is they don’t believe Beacon Hill under your [Patrick's] leadership or the treasurer’s leadership plays by the same values they play by. They don’t believe you’re living with the same recession that they’re living with,” Baker said.
“They see spending that goes up by $3 billion over the course of the last few years, at the same time that they’re living with less and making adjustments and changing the way they live.”
Cahill — who left the Democratic Party to run as an independent — also went after Patrick, accusing the governor of failing to make tough choices on spending in difficult times.
“That’s why they’ve raised taxes, they’ve raised taxes every year since he’s been in office. That’s when you’ve got to make really tough decisions and you have to look outside of your office, and look into the homes of the middle class, to those people who are struggling, those people who are without jobs, and try to create economic opportunity: bringing down the cost of business, bringing down taxes creates jobs,” Cahill said.
For this part, Patrick gave as good as he got. He defended his record, saying he’s cut billions in state spending, reduced the state workforce, capped pensions and lowered insurance rates, among other accomplishments.
“Now look, in order to make real change as opposed to just talking about it, what it requires up on Beacon Hill is standing up to people in power, and that is something we have done, and frankly, Charlie, you’ve never done. And we do it because we believe that we should be governing for the greater good, and not for the favor of a few,” Patrick said.
Baker Vs. Cahill
Sparks also flew between Baker and Cahill, the state treasurer — especially when Baker tried to suggest that Cahill had hurt cities and towns.
“Well, for the last three years, the folks on Beacon Hill, the governor and treasurer, have been cutting local aid, which has affected police officers and has affected law enforcement and local government…” Baker said.
An argument between Baker and Cahill followed.
“Charlie, I don’t cut local aid, I just put local money into local aid, OK?” Cahill responded.
The Excluded Candidate
Excluded from last night’s debate was Jill Stein, the Green-Rainbow Party candidate for governor. Stein has been polling in the low single digits, and so she was not invited. But she was outside — with a small, but vocal group of supporters — arguing that she should have been allowed to participate because she’s on the ballot.
“That ought to define who’s in the debate, and we’ve played by the rules,” Stein said. “You shouldn’t have to pay to play to be included in the public debate, that’s not what Democracy is supposed to be about. Pay-to-play politics is the problem.”
The Boston Media Consortium, of which WBUR is a member, had also decided to exclude Stein from a series of upcoming debates, arguing she hadn’t raised enough money. Then, this week, the consortium reversed itself and said Stein will be allowed to participate in its debate on Sept. 21.