The Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates were spared nomination battles on Tuesday, allowing them to focus on a rare Primary Day debate and also to take in the latest spate of negative ads.
Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick, Republican Charles Baker and independent candidate Timothy Cahill were to meet just as polls closed at 8 p.m. for an hourlong debate on WBZ-AM. The session was being moderated by nighttime host Dan Rea.
Patrick, Baker and Cahill, as well as the fourth person in the race, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein, all automatically advanced to the Nov. 2 general election because they lacked primary challengers.
Stein, however, was being excluded from the debate, prompting her to protest the event. A WBZ spokesman did not return a request for comment, but Stein has been lagging in both polls and fundraising, and was initially excluded from a pair of statewide televised debates before the media consortium organizing them reconsidered.
"Inside the studio there will be heated arguments over which of the three men who have been admitted to the debate can best pursue the failing policies that Beacon Hill keeps imposing upon our commonwealth. Outside the debate hall we are going to be telling the people of Massachusetts about the solutions that are being kept off the table," Stein said in a statement.
Patrick, Baker and Cahill are debating again Thursday at 9 a.m. on WTKK-FM. That debate was being moderated by morning co-hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.
Meanwhile, a newly formed group with links to Patrick has launched a sweeping negative ad campaign against Baker.
Bay State Future started spending $650,000 this week on an ad criticizing Baker for developing a key Big Dig financing plan while serving as budget chief in the Weld and Cellucci administrations.
It suggests Baker hasn't been forthright about his contribution to the project's spiraling cost, which eventually reached nearly $15 billion.
"Keep digging, Charlie," says the ad kicker, as a shovel tosses dirt on a pile.
The major buy comes just days after the Massachusetts Democratic Party spent far less, just over $100,000, on a pro-Patrick commercial.
It also comes months after a pro-Baker group, the Republican Governors Association, spent millions attacking Patrick and Cahill.
Federal documents show Bay State Future was organized only last week by an Arlington baker who has supported Democrats in the past. Barbara Weniger owns the Lakota Bakery and has been a heavy contributor in the past to both President Barack Obama and Patrick, giving the governor the maximum $500 campaign contribution this year.
Politico, the Washington-focused website and newspaper, reported the group is backed by the Democratic Governors Association. Both the DGA and Weniger did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
In a statement, Baker complained the ad violated Patrick's pledge to wage a positive campaign.
"I fully expect to see the union and special interest attack machine come alive on behalf of Gov. Patrick and Treasurer Cahill because they know that re-electing Gov. Patrick or Treasurer Cahill is the only way they will hold onto power on Beacon Hill," Baker said.
This program aired on September 14, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.