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Four of the candidates for Massachusetts governor made their case to the nation's largest and oldest civil rights organizations on Saturday. More than 100 NAACP activists gathered in Medford to hear from one of the Republican candidates and all three Democratic candidates.
Democrat Steve Grossman touted his record in promoting diversity in hiring during his tenure as state treasurer. He called for a more fair tax code and universal pre-kindergarten.
Grossman said he'd like to work with all the governors in New England states and New York to stem gun violence and illegal drugs. "When 13 percent of our kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have had an illegal drug and used an illegal drug within the last month, that's a problem," he said. "Governors have to get together and see what we can do to interdict the flow of guns and drugs across our borders."
Donald Berwick, another Democrat and former Obama administration health care official, said he favors a progressive tax policy in which higher income earners pay higher rates. Berwick also focused on the need to address educational inequities. He also said one issue which he says sets him apart from the others is casinos.
"I am the only candidate for governor opposed to casinos," he said. "Bringing gambling, addiction, substance abuse and petty crime and harm to small businesses into our communities with casinos makes no sense at all. I favor the repeal initiative."
Attorney General Martha Coakley leads all candidates in the polls. She noted the recent 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation decision and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the civil rights act, but said there is still much to be done.
"Although we've moved away from overt racism, there is still baked in, I would argue, particularly in Massachusetts, because of our history and our willingness to hang onto our neighborhoods and some of our old traditions, that we have not come as far as we should in terms of not just not discriminating but being inclusive."
Republican Charlie Baker, making his second bid for governor, says Massachusetts needs political diversity. He recalled his years as a cabinet secretary in the Republican administrations of Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci, working with a Democratically controlled legislature.
"I thought the competition that took place between us and them produced a product in many respects worked a lot better and was far more accountable that the product you get when you just have one team on the field."
The NAACP does not endorse candidates.