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Chang-Díaz takes aim at Healey during candidate forum

Sonia Chang-Díaz and Maura Healey attended a Democratic caucus earlier this year.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

In a statewide candidate forum hosted by Boston Democrats Tuesday night, Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz took aim at fellow gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Maura Healey, criticizing her for supporting a proposal that would expand the state’s wiretap law and pressing her to take part in three debates before the state Democratic party convention in June.

While the Zoom forum’s format didn’t easily allow for a back-and-forth, Healey deflected a question from Chang-Díaz on the debates, and focused on her record as well as her newly announced climate plan, the first major policy proposal since she launched her campaign three months ago.

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The online forum was hosted by Boston Ward 4 and 5 Democrats, and was moderated by GBH’s Callie Crossley.

The Boston senator directly challenged Healey to debates during the forum, which was attended by other statewide candidates.

“As much as I appreciate this conversation here today . . . I think it’s important to acknowledge that this is not a replacement for a debate,” she said, addressing Healey directly during the forum. “Candidate to candidate, person to person, debates are the cornerstone of our democracy. Voters deserve to know where we stand on all of these issues.”

Chang-Díaz said during the forum that her campaign has received offers for debate hosts, and directly asked the attorney general if she would participate, though the format of the virtual forum did not quite allow for candidates to ask one another questions.

Healey, at ease, said that she “looks forward to continuing to talk about policy over the next six weeks” and noted that “we actually have a debate next week,” referring to a forum on energy and the environment WBUR and the Environmental League of Massachusetts are hosting Apr. 27.

The tussle over debates started last month when Chang-Díaz challenged Healey to three live, televised debates before June, a move some political experts said signaled concern over her level of support at the state’s Democratic Party Convention. Healey has since agreed to two debates before the primary election in September.

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Healey holds a commanding lead over Chang-Díaz in fund-raising and in the polls, coming out 45 percentage points ahead of the senator in a survey published Tuesday by UMass Lowell.

During the forum, Healey spoke about advisory councils — like her council for new Americans, for labor, and race and equity — that she has formed as attorney general. She said they engage directly with the community, and that she goes to them for advice.

But Chang-Díaz tried to use that anecdote against Healey during her own answer to one of Crossley’s questions. Given Healey’s support for a proposal that would expand the use of wiretap surveillance in the state, a “major issue to communities of color,” Chang-Díaz said it was clear she hadn’t consulted her race and equity advisory council.

At the end of the forum, during a speed round, Crossley asked the candidates which policy could become possible should a Democrat be elected to the Corner Office.

Chang-Díaz said a Democrat governor would sign a bill — which has passed in the Massachusetts House — that would allow residents without legal immigration status to get driver’s licenses. She said that she is the only gubernatorial candidate to support that legislation, which left Healey shaking her head no. Healey has expressed support for the bill.

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Healey didn’t answer Crossley’s question, saying there are “too many” to choose from.


Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.