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At gubernatorial forum, Coakley takes cautious approach on taxes

Massachusetts attorney general and candidate for governor Martha Coakley.

AP File

Massachusetts attorney general and candidate for governor Martha Coakley.

None of them own a gun, all oppose the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and only Martha Coakley definitively supports a Boston bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

At the second Democratic gubernatorial forum since the field of candidates was narrowed to three at the state party convention, Coakley, Steven Grossman and Donald M. Berwick rehashed familiar talking points but also offered new insights into where they stand on some issues.

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At the debate, hosted by 90.9 WBUR, Coakley took a more careful approach on taxes than her rivals. Moderator Bob Oakes asked whether the wealthiest citizens in Massachusetts pay their fair share in taxes. Berwick and Grossman said they do not, while Coakley, the attorney general, said “probably not.”

Berwick insisted the people at the bottom end of the income spectrum were paying too much. Coakley disagreed, saying “we give a lot of breaks to people at the bottom level.” Grossman, the state treasurer, did not specifically answer the question, instead saying the state can “do a better job for people at the lower end of the spectrum.”

On guns, all three said they did not own one and Berwick, 67, said he had never fired one. Coakley said she had at a training range during her time as an assistant district attorney, and Grossman said he did while he was in the military.

All three oppose the death penalty generally, and all said they are also against it for Tsarnaev. And while Berwick and Grossman said they want to mull the idea of a Boston bid for the 2024 Summer Games, Coakley said she supports it.

Only Coakley definitively said she favors a Boston bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Grossman and Berwick said they want to look at the plan more closely.

The most tart exchange came as Berwick, a former federal Medicare and Medicaid chief, pressed for a single-payer health care system in the state, in which the government would provide health insurance, rather than private firms. The push for what he often calls “Medicare for all” has been one of his banner issues.

But as he was outlining the plan, Grossman interrupted him, asking, “How do you make it happen, Don?”

“You need to lead to the change and declare that you, as governor, will actually make single-payer —” Berwick replied before Grossman interjected again.

“Nobody can wave a magic wand, Don,” Grossman shot back. “You can’t do that. This is not a monarchy. You’ve got to build a consensus in our society around any dramatic societal change.”

Coakley, for her part, said she didn’t rule out the system but the state was not ready for it.

The winner of the Sept. 9 Democratic primary will face either Republican Charlie Baker or Mark Fisher in November. Three independent candidates are also running to succeed Governor Deval Patrick.

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