Where The Gubernatorial Candidates Stand

A look at where the Democratic and Republican candidates for Massachusetts governor stand on a series of issues ahead of Tuesday's primary.

Click to go directly to an issue: casinos, education, gun control, immigration, and health care (via CommonHealth).


The future of casino gambling in Massachusetts has become a major topic of debate among the three Democrats and two Republicans seeking the gubernatorial nominations of their parties in the Sept. 9 primaries.

A 2011 law opened the door for casinos in the state for the first time, allowing for up to three resort casinos and one slots parlor, but a question before voters on the November ballot calls for repealing that law.

Steven Grossman, Democrat:

Grossman supports the casino law and plans to vote against the repeal question, despite acknowledging that the Lottery, which he oversees as state treasurer, could take at least a small initial hit from the onset of casino gambling.

"Along with Governor Patrick, I've supported the expansion of casino gaming in Massachusetts because it holds the potential to create 15,000 jobs as well as up to $300 million in additional revenue, which can be invested in some of our most important priorities, including universal pre-K education," Grossman said.

If the law is repealed, the Democrat said he would respect the will of voters and not try to salvage a proposed casino in Springfield.

Martha Coakley, Democrat:

The state attorney general ruled last year that the proposed ballot question calling for repeal of the casino gambling law was unconstitutional. But she also said she was "perfectly satisfied" with the unanimous decision by the state's highest court to overturn her ruling.

The Democrat said she will vote against repeal, but her support for casinos has been lukewarm.

"I have said that casinos is not the first place I ever would have gone for economic development," she said.

Coakley also said recently that she would keep an open mind toward the possibility of seeking legislative approval for a proposed $800 million casino in Springfield, even if the current law is repealed by voters.

Donald Berwick, Democrat:

Berwick, a former federal health care administrator, is the only Democrat supporting repeal of the law that allows for up to three regional resort casinos and a single slots parlor in Massachusetts.

Though he recognizes the need for new jobs and tax revenue in the state, Berwick said he believes casinos are too risky a proposition.

"I don't believe that we should be teaching our children that economic development is best achieved through gambling institutions," he said.

Among the concerns cited by Berwick, a physician, is that casinos will lead to a spike in gambling addiction, hurting families and adding costs for behavioral health treatment.

Mark Fisher, Republican:

Fisher, a businessman and Tea Party member, opposes casinos and unlike his Republican primary opponent Charlie Baker, said he planned to vote in November to repeal the state's 2011 gambling law.

"They can't bring real jobs to this state," Fisher has said of casinos.

Fisher, however, said if voters reject the repeal question, he would not as governor do anything to interfere with casino operators.

Charlie Baker, Republican:

Baker, the former head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, was the first candidate for governor to suggest the possibility of a single casino going forward even if Massachusetts voters repeal the gambling law in November.

The Republican said he would ask the Legislature to allow MGM Resorts to continue with a proposed $800 million casino in downtown Springfield. The state gambling commission awarded MGM the western Massachusetts casino license in June.

"I'm going to vote against the repeal effort," Baker said. "And if the repeal effort is approved, I'm going to file legislation to put the Springfield casino back on the map," Baker said recently.

While he supports the current law, Baker has said he would have preferred that it initially authorized only one casino.


Education is always a critical issue in campaigns for governor in a state that prides itself on a knowledge-based economy. This year is no different.

Each of the five Democratic and Republican candidates for governor have outlined plans that they say will help improve and expand access to education and keep Massachusetts among the top rung of states in the national rankings.

Steven Grossman:

Grossman said he would launch a universal prekindergarten program available to every child in the state, invest more resources in public higher education, and freeze tuition and fees at state public colleges and universities for the next four years.

"The zip code in which you live or in which you were born must never determine the quality of the education you receive," he said.

Grossman said he would also bring Wi-Fi infrastructure into every public school and expand so-called STEM programs that currently focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to include the arts, which he said is critical in a 21st century innovation economy.

Martha Coakley:

Coakley said she, too, wants to ensure universal access to high quality early education, beginning with universal access for children in the state's older, financially strapped municipalities known as Gateway Cities.

Coakley also said she wants to expand learning time to allow for more one-on-one instruction and enrichment programs like art and music, expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, especially computer science, and better align training at vocational schools and community colleges with the state's workforce needs.

"We have a responsibility to help every child in Massachusetts reach his or her full potential," Coakley said.

Donald Berwick:

Berwick said if elected he will invest in universal prekindergarten and support low-income and single-parent families to make sure every child in Massachusetts is ready for school.

Berwick pledged to help foster what he called a proud, capable, respected, and fully supported teacher workforce. He also vowed to move away from high-stakes testing, and would work to make sure Massachusetts' underfunded schools get the resources they need while also investing in community colleges and vocational schools

"Major inequities exist among our public schools and I am committed to closing those gaps," Berwick said.

Mark Fisher:

Fisher said he would once again require wood shop, metal shop, home economics and vocational skill programs to middle schools.

Fisher also said that families and local school districts are best suited to make decisions regarding the education of students in their communities.

The Republican candidate said he's opposed to any national education standards, guidelines or proposals on state or local communities, and as governor would work to exempt the state from the national Common Core program.

"Teachers know what is best for their students," he said. "Let's let teachers teach."

Charlie Baker:

Baker said he would create an Excellence School District to enable and encourage dramatic improvements in the state's lowest performing schools.

Baker said he would also work with state lawmakers to increase the number of charter schools and remove restrictions on the number of students who can attend them in the lowest performing districts.

"We can have great schools across the commonwealth that ensure opportunity for every single child, no matter where they live," Baker said.

Baker said a four-year, full-time college program is increasingly unaffordable for middle-class and working families and he would work to make higher education more affordable, and better connect students to jobs.

Gun Control:

Stemming gun violence and illegal gun trafficking has been a major topic of discussion in Massachusetts in recent months despite the state's reputation for having some of the nation's most stringent laws already in place.

Differences in approach to gun safety issues have emerged between the three Democrats and two Republicans seeking their party nominations in Tuesday's primary elections.

Steven Grossman:

The state treasurer has taken Democratic rival Martha Coakley to task in a TV ad and on the campaign trail for not supporting Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to limit individuals to no more than one gun purchase per month.

"That's 12 guns a year," said Grossman. That's enough to protect yourself, hunt, and exercise your Second Amendment rights."

The Legislature did not include the one-gun-per-month provision in a sweeping gun safety bill it passed over the summer. Grossman supported the bill, but he also said Massachusetts should require firearms manufacturers to install "smart gun" technology to keep weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

Grossman would also seek creation of an interstate task force to address illegal gun trafficking.

Martha Coakley:

The attorney general said she would push for a federal assault weapons ban, universal background checks and closing the gun show loopholes, calling such efforts "critical to stemming the tide of illegal guns currently coming into Massachusetts from states with looser gun laws."

Coakley has been faulted by Democratic rival Steven Grossman for not supporting a proposal offered by Gov. Deval Patrick to limit individual gun purchases to one per month.

"The one-gun-a-month limit isn't necessary in Massachusetts and the state should instead focus on gun trafficking and keeping firearms away from mentally unstable people," Coakley responded.

She praised a recently passed gun safety bill, including a provision that gives police chiefs more discretion in the issuance of permits for rifles and shotguns.

Donald Berwick:

Massachusetts, Berwick said, should be proud to have some of the nation's toughest gun laws, but the root causes of violence lie in poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity.

"Gun violence is a serious public health issue," said the pediatrician and former federal health care administrator. "Guns killed over 30,000 Americans in 2013, and firearm homicide is the second leading cause of death for people under 19 in America."

The recent gun law passed by the Legislature was a step in the right direction, the Democrat said, but he would also push for a one-per-month limit on gun purchases and "smart gun" technologies such as fingerprint locks. Berwick also promised to work with other regional governors to stem illegal gun trafficking.

Mark Fisher:

Fisher calls himself a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and was the only major party candidate to oppose passage of the gun safety law that was recently approved by the Legislature.

"Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country," said Fisher. "I strongly oppose any new gun legislation."

Fisher did find one thing he liked in the new law, a provision that ended a state mandate that people have a firearms identification card to purchase pepper spray. Fisher said his own 83-year-old mother had to get an FID card before she could legally carry pepper spray.

Charlie Baker:

Baker said he supported the gun safety bill recently approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

Baker said the new law satisfied what he considered the three major issues surrounding gun safety: Participation by Massachusetts in a national mental health database; increased penalties for crimes committed with guns, and more focus on gun trafficking.

"And the fact that you have the gun safety people and the gun owners folks for the most part reasonably content with this legislation, I think is a good thing," Baker said during a debate with GOP opponent Mark Fisher on WBUR-FM.

Baker has dismissed a proposal from Patrick and other Democrats to limit individual gun purchases to one per month, saying he agreed with critics who considered it more a gimmick than effective policy.


Immigration may not be as incendiary an issue in Massachusetts as it is in border states like Arizona and Mexico, yet the approach the state should take to those in the country illegally can still spark strong emotions.

Those emotions were most recently on display when Gov. Deval Patrick offered to host unaccompanied children crossing the nation's southern border at one of two military bases in the state.

Each of the five Democratic and Republican candidates for governor has outlined immigration policies ahead of Tuesday's primaries.

Steven Grossman:

Grossman says he supports in-state tuition rates for all immigrants including those in the country illegally, saying it would provide the state's 29 public colleges and universities with about $2 million in new revenues during the first year alone.

The Democratic state treasurer also said he supports providing all immigrants — regardless of their legal status — with driver's licenses, calling it is a critical issue of public safety and fairness.

Grossman also said the Secure Communities program is "fundamentally flawed" and is tearing families apart. He said he would work to make communities safer while treating all people with empathy and compassion.

"It's time to make fairness and common sense central ingredients of our state's immigration policy," Grossman said.

Martha Coakley:

Coakley said as attorney general she's worked with immigrant communities to address problems like domestic violence and gangs, and to protect workers from being exploited, regardless of their legal status.

If elected governor, the Democrat says she would support Patrick's order extending in-state tuition rates to the children of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. She said she'd also support the so-called DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal status for many young immigrants in the country illegally.

Coakley also said changes to the federal Secure Communities program should be considered. Critics say the program, designed to help identify dangerous criminals in the country illegally, has also led to arrests and possible deportation for relatively minor crimes.

Donald Berwick:

Berwick says he supports driver's licenses for Massachusetts residents in the country illegally and in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities for students living in Massachusetts regardless of immigration status.

The Democrat also said he opposes the federal Secure Communities program and supports the so-called TRUST Act, which would bar local police from detaining suspects for possible deportation unless they were charged with serious or violent crimes.

He said he'd work to reduce waiting lists for immigrants wanting to learn English and would support immigrant entrepreneurs.

"An inclusive, welcoming community that encourages integration and celebrates diversity has been, and will continue to be, a key ingredient for a strong state and nation," he said.

Mark Fisher:

Fisher said he supports legal immigration and has employed immigrants who have come to the country after obtaining green cards allowing them to live in the country.

"They saw America as a land of opportunity," Fisher said. "Having played by the rules has made them and our country better."

But Fisher said those who come into the country and state illegally are harming the economy and threatening the state's survival.

As governor, Fisher said he would turn off what he calls the "benefit magnet." He said if Massachusetts becomes stricter about denying benefits to immigrants here illegally, they will "self-deport to the next blue, sanctuary state to receive their benefits."

Charlie Baker:

Baker faulted political leaders in Washington for failing to reach a solution to the immigration crisis, leaving states to deal with their inaction.

Baker has said the state should take steps to exclude immigrants in the country illegally from public housing including automatically give preference to citizens and legal immigrants who are currently on lengthy waiting lists for subsidized housing.

"We are a nation of immigrants," Baker said. "I value the diversity created by legal immigration that continues to shape our commonwealth in positive ways."

Baker also said that while states should work with the federal government to help provide emergency assistance, Massachusetts shouldn't become the "steward or the financier" of those services - referring to Patrick's offer to temporarily shelter unaccompanied children.

And, from WBUR's CommonHealth, where the candidates stand on health care.


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