Metro, Politics, Featured Story

Gubernatorial Candidates Face Final Campaign Stretch

During the final Governor’s Debate before the Massachusetts gubernatorial election, Democratic nominee Martha Coakley was asked why her Republican counterpart Charlie Baker was leading by three points in the polls in a predominantly liberal state. She preferred to keep it optimistic.

“I’m confident we’re going to win on Nov. 4,” she said.

A recent Boston Globe endorsement of Baker, however, may suggest otherwise.

The Globe based its endorsement on Coakley’s reluctance “to spell out an issue agenda—raising the possibility that, if she is elected, the public discussion might drift toward whichever priorities legislative leaders decided to emphasize.”

In its endorsement, The Globe highlighted Coakley’s ambiguous position on education in comparison with Baker’s, which it said “would provide full-throated support for the kind of high standards, accountability, and innovation that will give all children in Massachusetts the opportunities they deserve.” The idea is that Baker would serve as a conservative balance to the strong Democratic majorities in both houses.

Although The Globe was friendly to Baker, he did not leave Monday night’s debate in Worcester unscathed. Both the moderator, Latoyia Edwards of NECN, and Coakley asked him about his potentially unethical behavior while working in the private sector. Edwards inquired about Baker’s alleged pay-to-play scheme with the New Jersey Republican Party in 2011, which Democrats have tried to connect to the Cambridge-based firm at which he worked. The suspicion originates from a $15 million deal the New Jersey pension fund entered into with Baker’s firm, General Catalyst, after Baker’s $10,000 donation to the Republican Governor’s Association, which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie chairs.

“I’ve been completely transparent about this issue since the beginning,” Baker said, and when asked if he regretted making the donation, he said, “Well, yeah.”

When Coakley asked about his $1.7 million salary raise at Harvard Pilgrim while the company was losing jobs, he grew more aggressive.

“You bring this issue up all the time,” he said. “This is one of the reasons why people do not go into public service, because of this sort of nonsense.”

Baker is referring to Coakley’s similar question in the previous debate, in Chicopee on Thursday, Oct. 23, in which she used his handling of employment at Harvard Pilgrim to suggest that he is a candidate who puts the bottom line before the people.

“[The company] went into receivership and we had to make some tough decisions to rescue it,” he responded at the time, asking Coakley what she would have done to save the company in their next debate. Coakley asserted that not taking a salary increase would have been a good start, but Baker remained steadfast. “So you don’t have any suggestions on how you would have dealt with the problems?” he asked.

While Baker insists he is the candidate who will help state government work more efficiently, Coakley’s ethos has been based mostly in assertions that she is on the side of the people. Despite differences, the two candidates agree on a wide range of issues, including the need to construct new transmission lines to import electricity, devote at least 1 percent of the state’s operating budget to environmental issues, the rolling back of the income tax to 5 percent, and longer school days. Baker has also broken from party lines on the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion rights. The most fundamental disagreement the candidates have is in their vision of the state government’s current condition.

Coakley has indicated that, if elected, she would stay on a track similar to that laid out by her predecessor, current governor Deval Patrick. Patrick’s widespread popularity allowed him to seek reform in healthcare, renewable energy, and transportation bureaucracy. He defeated Baker in 2010 when he ran for reelection, a defeat from which Baker is trying to come back. While Coakley believes that the government would operate best if kept on the same track, Baker claims that this is a sign that Democrats do not have new ideas.

“We have a detailed plan to create jobs from one end of the commonwealth to the other. They don’t,” Baker said after winning the primary in early September with 74 percent of the vote. “We have a plan to restore fiscal discipline and keep taxes low, they don’t.”

In early April, Baker was 16.8 points behind Coakley. After securing the nomination in the primary, Baker closed the five point gap between the two. He finally passed Coakley in early October by only 0.2 points, only to dive two points behind her once again. The race has been back and forth all through the month, with Baker currently standing with a three point lead, making it difficult to predict who might leave Nov. 4 victorious.

Featured Image – AP Photo / Elise Amendola

October 29, 2014