Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff
On June 3, the Democratic candidates for governor convened on Morrissey Boulevard for a Globe Opinion Debate (#OpDebates on Twitter). Here are some highlights from the conversation:
1. The candidates had harsh words for the rollout of the Massachusetts Health Connector website and criticized Governor Deval Patrick’s handling of the mess — in language that reflected their particular backgrounds. Treasurer Steve Grossman blasted Patrick for awarding a no-bid contract. Former homeland security official Juliette Kayyem talked about the need for “redundancies in the system.” And biotech executive Joe Avellone focused on management: “[Patrick] wasn’t a large-scale manager, nor were many of the governors before.”
2. Asked whether Massachusetts should stick with the Common Core K-12 standards — for the most part, they think “yes” — the candidates voiced the common teachers’ complaint that public schools are now overly focused on standardized testing. Attorney General Martha Coakley talked about adding more fun, arts, and recess to the school day. And former Medicare chief Don Berwick lamented that teachers have become demoralized. Note: Teachers’ unions are usually well represented among delegates to the Democratic State Convention.
3. Asked to name a major difference with a chief primary opponent, Grossman said he and Coakley have a “fundamental difference on policy when it comes to guns.” Citing Patrick’s proposal to limit gun purchases to one per month, he said, “I stand with the governor . . . and Martha takes the NRA position.” Coakley pushed back hard. “It’s a question of individual tactics,” she said, saying she wanted to concentrate on domestic violence, mental health issues, and closing gun loopholes. “I focus on where we’re going to make a difference,” she said.
4. Asked to name a good reason not to get rid of the vestigial elected board — which meets to approve judicial nominations — the candidates pushed back. Coakley said the council makes selection of judges transparent. Kayyem said it isn’t a battle worth fighting. Grossman said the council has been enshrined in the state constitution for more than 200 years: “I think there’s a love for and respect for tradition in Massachusetts.” The candidates were equally forceful about keeping the position of lieutenant governor. Apparently, Tim Murray is missed.
5. The negative ads haven’t gone up yet — and the oppo research is only beginning— but these candidates know what the future holds. At one point, Kayyem, a former Globe columnist, joked that “I like everyone I’m sitting with. I trust no one,” prompting one political operative to tweet, “Would do well in King’s Landing.” No, Beacon Hill isn’t quite “Game of Thrones,” but the stakes for survival are high. Don’t expect anyone to be too friendly for too long.
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