Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker sparred on jobs, schools and services for families and children during a televised gubernatorial debate Tuesday.
Coakley said she would focus on building a sustainable economy from the ground up, while Baker said he would work to strengthen local economies in struggling parts of the state.
Baker defended his leadership of then fiscally troubled Harvard Pilgrim Health Care saying his actions helped save jobs, protect insurance plans, and ensure the stability of health care providers. Coakley criticized him for raising premiums and accepting pay raises during his time at the health care giant.
"We saved thousands of jobs and kept them right here in Massachusetts as the result of saving that company," Baker said.
Coakley defended her decision to fight a lawsuit aimed at the state Department of Children and Families. Baker has said she should have settled the case rather than fight it.
"There were outside lawyers who were suing us with a one-sized-fits-all solution," Coakley said. "It wasn't right for us."
The debate was sponsored by WGBH and The Boston Globe. Three independent candidates — Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick — weren't included in the debate.
On schools, Baker sounded more enthusiastic about expanding access to charter schools while Coakley said the state should look to see what works in charter schools and use that to improve education in regular public schools.
In one of the sharper exchanges, Coakley pressed Baker on an audit being conducted by New Jersey into a pension fund investment in General Catalyst, a venture capital fund where Baker was an "entrepreneur in residence."
Last month New Jersey sold the investment, which drew attention because New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had endorsed Baker's unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2010, and Baker gave $10,000 to the New Jersey GOP in 2011.
It's against New Jersey law for the state to use investment firms with managers who've made political donations in the state over the past two years.
Coakley said the facts of the case show a reason to investigate.
"If that's the case, he is in violation of the law," she said.
Baker said he did nothing wrong and noted that the only candidate in the race to pay a campaign finance penalty was Coakley, who regulators found had violated campaign finance laws by using her federal account for state political activities.
Both Coakley and Baker are seeking political redemption.
Four years ago, Baker lost a hard-fought race to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. Baker said he came off too harsh during that campaign and vowed this time around to present a sunnier side to his personality.
Coakley, the first woman to be elected attorney general in Massachusetts, also is hoping to put the ghosts of a 2010 race behind her.
That year, Coakley lost a special election to Republican Scott Brown to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Edward Kennedy. Coakley would be the first woman elected governor in Massachusetts if she wins.
The election is Nov. 4.