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Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates clashed Tuesday over the impact of Washington policies on the state, disagreeing over how much local emphasis should be placed on immigration enforcement, as well as the benefit of replacing state education standards with federal ones.
Gov. Deval Patrick disagreed with the aunt of his friend President Barack Obama, saying citizenship for immigrants is not a right. "It is a privilege," said Patrick, the Democratic incumbent and the former top Justice Department civil rights official in the Clinton administration.
Obama's aunt, Zeituni Onyango, a Kenyan national who lives in Boston, suggested that citizenship was a right of immigrants like her, during an interview aired before Patrick and his re-election rivals debated on Tuesday night.
Republican candidate Charles Baker said he would sign an executive order requiring anyone getting state benefits to be in the country legally.
"This is an important issue for a lot of working people in Massachusetts who felt like by playing by the rules, they're being played for chumps," he said.
Independent candidate Timothy Cahill said he would pass an Arizona-style allowance for police officers to check immigrant status if the federal government doesn't curb illegal immigration.
"If Washington won't act, I will act as governor," he said.
Jill Stein of the Green-Rainbow Party blamed the North American Free Trade Act for the illegal immigration problem.
"Undocumented immigrants tripled after NAFTA was passed, so we need a national solution," she said.
Later, the candidates disagreed about the Patrick administration's recent decision to replace local education standards with the so-called "Common Core" standards supported by the Obama administration.
Critics have said making the switch is a precursor to getting rid of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests, which have been widely credited with improving student achievement since a bipartisan education overhaul in 1993.
Patrick said he would not dump the MCAS test, but rather use its example to boost the curriculum and testing standards in the rest of the country.
"We are still part of America," the governor said, adding he was interested in "lifting the whole of America."
Baker said that in a high-cost, highly regulated state, "our calling card is the quality of our education system." He opposes both the Common Core switch and potential abandonment of the MCAS.
Cahill declared flatly: "MCAS will always be part of a Cahill administration."
Stein said teaching to tests such as the MCAS or a proposed federal replacement deprives students of a broader educational experience.
"We are sort of debating what is the color of the emperor's new clothes," she said.
The hourlong debate, before a live audience at the WGBH-TV studios, was moderated by CNN's John King, a Boston native. Outside, supporters of each candidate lined an intersection with a rainbow of colored campaign signs, using bullhorns and sheer lung power to vocalize their belief in their favorite.
The debate was broadcast live by a media consortium including WGBH-TV, WCVB-TV, New England Cable News, WHDH-TV and WGBH-FM and WBUR-FM. The Boston Globe also was a co-sponsor.
Patrick debated Baker and Cahill twice last week. Stein was excluded because of low fundraising and poll results.
The most recent poll shows Patrick leading Baker 41 percent to 34 percent, with Cahill at 14 percent and Stein at 4 percent. Six percent were undecided.
The general election is Nov. 2.
This program aired on September 21, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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