2 Republican Visions For Mass. At WBUR Debate

Republican gubernatorial candidates Mark Fisher, left, and Charlie Baker debate at WBUR Wednesday morning. WBUR host Bob Oakes moderates. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Republican gubernatorial candidates Mark Fisher, left, and Charlie Baker debate at WBUR Wednesday morning. WBUR host Bob Oakes moderates. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

BOSTON — Less than a month before Primary Day in Massachusetts, the two Republican candidates for governor met at WBUR Wednesday morning to face off in their first head-to-head debate of the campaign season (watch or listen to the debate here).

Tea Party-aligned candidate Mark Fisher blasted the state’s new gun law and argued for the elimination of targeted industry tax credits. His conservative positions veered far to the right, making the man sitting to his left, front-runner Charlie Baker, come across as a moderate.

The two Republican men — in their mid-50s, with MBAs, wearing similarly colored suits — did not agree on much. Baker said he would not vote in favor of repealing the casino law, while Fisher said he hopes the repeal passes. And when Baker said he would be “working the phones” behind the scenes to solve the crisis at the Market Basket supermarket chain, Fisher reiterated his belief that government should not interfere in private business.

Fisher said he does not believe in government tax credits or policies that favor a particularly troubled local community.

“People who are in these boats that float on the rising tide at some point have to raise the anchor, set the sail, and take helm,” he said. “I’m not going to cater to individuals, to specific industries, or to regions, or certain populations, like immigrants.”

Charlie Baker, during the WBUR debate (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Charlie Baker, during the WBUR debate (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Baker offered a more nuanced response. He said he understands why tax credits are occasionally needed, especially in research and development, and he cautioned that it would be unwise to repeatedly change tax policy because employers need stability.

Baker’s responses often challenged the status quo, but operated within the existing structure of Massachusetts politics. He criticized the Patrick administration’s handling of health care.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why the Patrick administration and the Health Connector broke what was working here,” Baker said, referring to costly website woes when the state implemented changes associated with the Affordable Care Act. “We had a system that worked, we had a Health Connector that worked, we had an exchange that worked.”

Fisher, on the other hand, freely condemned the entire existing institution.

Mark Fisher, during the WBUR debate (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Mark Fisher, during the WBUR debate (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

“I don’t like the idea of government being involved in health care at all,” he said when asked about health care reform in the state and what he would like to improve. “I believe these are one of the things that fall under our pursuit of happiness as individuals.”

The two also diverged on guns. Baker said he would have signed the legislation Gov. Deval Patrick signed Wednesday, while lauding the compromise reached by the Legislature on firearms identification cards for long guns. Fisher said he would have killed the bill.

(When asked if they are gun owners, Fisher said he once built a shotgun, but has since sold it. Baker said he doesn’t own a gun, that he “never needed to” own one.)

The debate highlighted the sharp ideological differences between these two Republicans, but they found a few moments of consensus. They agreed most visibly on charter schools.

“I think it’s a disgrace and a shame that the Legislature voted down increasing the cap on charter schools,” Baker said. “For many kids and many families, [a charter school is] one of the biggest and most significant opportunities they’ve got to improve their status in life.”

Fisher said he “absolutely” agrees the state needs more charter schools.

“It gives parents more choice for the education of their children and it increases competition among the existing schools,” he said.

Fisher and Baker also echoed one another when taking shots at the Patrick administration.

Baker said implementation of medical marijuana dispensaries has been a “disaster from start to finish.” “If I have the ability [as governor] to reboot it, I absolutely will,” he said.

Throughout the one-hour debate, Baker, who is polling well ahead of Fisher, seemed to be speaking beyond the Sept. 9 GOP primary.

“I believe that when you have one team on the field, and there’s no check and balance on Beacon Hill, which is how it works now, a lot of bad behavior is ultimately the result of that,” he said, when asked about patronage and the recently completed trial on hiring practices at the state Probation Department.

Even while he criticized the longevity of one-power rule in the state, Baker joked that one of his greatest liabilities is perhaps running as a Republican for governor in Massachusetts.

After the debate, Fisher was quick to mock Baker, saying he had previously labeled his opponent as “Democrat light,” but in reality Baker is “Democrat strong.”

“He lines up with [Patrick] on health care being a right, climate change, income inequality, government involvement with minimum wage … illegal immigration now,” Fisher said.

Fisher said it has become standard practice for Republicans to water down their message because they feel the state is owned by Democrats.

“I have the opposite approach,” he said. “I say the Democrats own the state, that means they own all the problems. What a great time to run as a Republican and win.”

This post was updated with the post-debate recap.

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  • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

    I remember an old quote about if you give the voters a choice between a Democrat and a Democrat they will always vote for the Democrat. Mr. Baker seems to have missed that axiom.

  • J__o__h__n

    “When elephants dance, it is the ants that get crushed” – Charlie Baker unintentionally warning voters against voting Republican.

  • downtown21

    Four years ago Charlie Baker promised that he was going to help the economy by firing thousands of workers on his first day in office. That’s INSANE economic policy. And reproductive rights? Romney said he supported those, then as soon as he was in office and started running for president he told us, “just kidding!” You can’t trust Republicans on that issue, if they really believed in protecting reproductive rights they wouldn’t be Republicans!

    And NEVER forget that it was Republican administrations that failed to properly supervise Big Dig contractors and let the costs spiral out of control, and “paid” for it by piling the debt on top of the MBTA, bankrupting our transportation infrastructure.

    As for Fisher, he’s just an ideological lunatic. We have >99% health insurance coverage in Massachusetts, and he thinks we were better off before. In Massachusetts, healthcare insurance reform is no longer a theoretical argument…we have documented proof that it worked because we see the results, but he still rejects what he sees with his own eyes and prefers to believe his political ideology. Rejecting facts in favor of what you believe is pretty much the definition of dogmatism.

    • Steve Fruzzetti

      You are aware that there were only 6.4% without health insurance in 2006, before Romneycare? (http://www.factcheck.org/2011/03/romneycare-facts-and-falsehoods/) Now that we have Romneycare, health care consumes over 40% of the state’s budget compared to about 20-25% in other states.

      • downtown21

        So what’s your point? I should be ashamed that my state does a better job of taking care of its needy than other states? I used to know someone who lived in one of those fantastic “about 20%” states. She was a 20 year old quadriplegic and she had to live in a nursing home with geriatric roommates because that’s all her state would pay for. But she wasn’t living in that kind of hell for very long because the underpaid nursing home staff eventually killed her through incompetence. You can go live in one of those states, sunshine.

        By the way, your link is broken. But the REAL FactCheck.org article on “RomneyCare” states that Massachusetts’ uninsured rate was higher than the made up number you’re quoting. It also states that Massachusetts was spending more money per capita on healthcare even BEFORE the law was passed, so you’re obviously being dishonest when you blame that law for the higher costs. But again, spending more isn’t necessarily something to be ashamed of…especially considering Massachusetts is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest states in the country. We should be more like a state that spends less and has a sickly, unhealthy population? Are we a third world country or something?

        • rpn123321

          That link isn’t broken, try again ding-dong. His numbers are accurate that he quoted on the page. Love the fact that you called him out, and then spew your own made up facts, and then just reference factcheck.org LOLOLOLOLOL I should make up some facts as well, and do the same if that works!! You are in disbelief of reality.

      • MoonBeamWatcher

        Think you misspeak, MA now has AHC or Obamma Care!

    • rpn123321

      So you are measuring the success of the health care based on 98% of the people being covered? I love it when people mention this as the success, because they are forgetting that a lot of those people are being forced to carry it with fear of paying a stiff penalty. Health Insurance is a BS scam that is only satisfying the government, hospitals, and insurance industries. Meanwhile the poor shlubs that are forced to hand over their hard earned money, get nothing from them except a very high deductible, a high premium, plenty of bills for “free once a year” things such as your annual physical. The way the system is setup is pooching every one of us. Fisher is the only candidate that apparently understands how the healthcare reform act is benefiting everyone else but the majority of the citizens. Take away the threat of a penalty and you will see very quickly just how “successful” the mandate is. It’s legal robbery in Mass right now.

    • MoonBeamWatcher

      Our MA Democratic elected LeaKers should be ashamed of themselves! We had Mitt Lite that covered 96% of citizens and they abandoned their fiduciary responsibility by not opting out of “ObamaCare”! They disrespected the voter in their lame attempt not to disrespect Mr. Obama! Them lovelie lies, AHC will cost less, you like your insurance and MD you can keep them. Pure unadulterated BS!

  • massvocals

    illegal immigration just follow the present law game over ? those people are illegals and need to be sent home end of story eliminate corporate income taxes first of all that is what was to be tax by the IRC that is completely opposite of the IRC which is piggy back by the Massachusetts code why not just end income taxes on pay checks or tell the truth of what it earn is not income gain and profit like corporate tax

  • massvocals

    who is learn the issue on Cannabis these people running for office want to follow the same old party line hook and sinker and they will sink you cannabis should be legal and prohibition should be ended

  • massvocals

    medical marijuana is not doctor issue right now no doctors will give recommendation there being instructed to refuse cannabis / can police used medical marijuana on the job ?

  • massvocals

    both these people have no ideas and are not worth voting for evil for evil we need new choice one with new ideas who will invest in such ideas remove this system heath care failed when it was in past now everyone has it

  • doubletrouble2

    I love Fisher and will do everything in my power to see he is elected!

    • downtown21

      Unless magic or mass hypnosis is within your power, it ain’t gonna happen sunshine.

  • J__o__h__n

    “wearing similarly colored suits” – All male politicians dress this way. Please stick to important facts. It is especially irrelevant in a radio debate.

  • MoonBeamWatcher

    Vote against all incumbents! The Democratic controlled “Great and General Court” had an opportunity to FREE JUSTINA PALLATIER but whooosed out and took a NO ROLL CALL VOTE to do NOTHING. This proved that to do NOTHING is something and this follows them doing the same over and over again. Same Sex Marriage was delt with by MA SJC after our elected LeaKers did NOTHING! Again, and Again!
    MA needs a TWO party legislature so some sound ‘horse trading’ can be done and the citizens of MA can be proud of them.

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