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Gubernatorial candidates join calls for DCF chief to resign

Gubernatorial candidates joined the chorus of calls Monday for the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families to step down.

Charlie Baker, a Republican candidate for governor, was the first of the candidates out of the gate Monday, calling once again for Roche to resign. He first called for the DCF leader’s exit in February.

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“I am pleased that Speaker DeLeo has joined my call for new leadership to clean up DCF, and protect our state’s most vulnerable children,” he said.

Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray both came out forcefully in favor of Roche’s resignation Monday.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who polls have found to be leading the Democratic gubernatorial field, also called for Roche’s exit.

“The confidence of the public in this agency is at a low ebb. And I think it needs to be restored. And I think that has to be by new leadership,” she told reporters, according to an audio recording of her remarks provided by an aide.

Asked why she had not called for Roche’s resignation earlier, she said it was “not my call to make, obviously.”

Some others candidates hoping to succeed Governor Deval Patrick also pressed for Roche to go.

“Relieving Commissioner Roche of her duties alone will not fix DCF. We know now that serious issues have existed there for a long time, before her tenure,” said Democrat Joe Avellone. “But rapidly remaking the DCF will require new leadership to make significant changes. I would urge the Commissioner to step aside and allow new management to take over now immediately.”

A spokeswoman for Treasurer Steven Grossman said he too has called on Roche to resign.

In statements, Democrats Donald Berwick and Juliette Kayyem stopped short of calling for Roche’s resignation.

A Berwick spokesman later said Berwick is calling for Roche to step down, but that reforming the agency as a whole was the most important issue.

Independent candidates Evan Falchuk and Jeffrey S. McCormick — as well as Republican Mark Fisher — also pressed for her to go.

Falchuk, a lawyer, dinged Patrick for his oversight of the troubled agency in a statement.

“Instead of saying ‘the buck stops here,’ the governor seems to be saying ‘the accountability stops here.’ Where is the leadership?” he said. “To play politics and protect your appointees instead of taking responsibility for at-risk kids in Massachusetts is inexcusable.”

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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