The two self-styled progressive Democrats who are running for governor tried to create some daylight between themselves, chiefly over their experience, while taking the occasional swipe at the Republican incumbent, Charlie Baker, during a debate Thursday.
Appearing on WGBH’s “Greater Boston” with Jim Braude, Bob Massie, an environmental activist from Somerville who ran for lieutenant governor in 1994, tried to frame himself as the outsider candidate and a “movement leader” and his opponent, Jay Gonzalez, a state budget chief under former governor Deval Patrick, as a political insider.
Massie thought voters wanted “a bold leader who is able to bring people together” and said he did not think that Gonzalez had “the full imagination of all our opportunities.” He talked about Democratic lawmakers in the state being out of touch and the need for the Democratic Party to grow.
“It needs to be in touch with its younger members; it needs to be in touch with the millions of people who are hurting in this state,” he said.
For his part, Gonzalez, a Needham resident, did not distance himself from his Beacon Hill experience.
“I’ve been there, I’ve done it before, I’ve managed a state budget during the worst fiscal crisis the state has faced in decades,” he said.
Gonzalez did not think the Democrat-led Legislature was out of touch, but he did say the state’s legislators need to be pushed.
“Right now, we’ve got a governor who isn’t asking them to do anything,” he said.
Both agreed that the state’s transportation system was a mess. Gonzalez said people are stuck in traffic for too long, while Massie said traffic congestion has gotten worse during the past decade and spoke about the importance of laying the groundwork for high-speed rail. Both said as governor they would fire Keolis, the MBTA’s commuter rail operator.
When Braude pressed Gonzalez to give an example of a progressive tax he would consider implementing, Gonzalez said, “There are lots of big corporations across this state that are benefiting from tax breaks that have been put in place that no one ever looks at.”
Massie dismissed that answer as “a huge cloud of vagueness,” while stressing the importance of a “full-build out” of renewable energy in the state, which he said would generate as much as $6 billion in revenue. Massie blasted Baker for being in the pocket of energy utilities.
Gonzalez said that during his first term, every family in the state will have access to “good, quality child care.”
During a discussion about systemic problems of sexual misconduct, Massie emphasized the need for greater transparency when it comes to dealing with such behavior, whether it occurs in the Catholic Church, state government, or private business.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, said eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers could reduce sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. Earners such as bartenders and servers, whose income is dependent on tips, sometimes “tolerate behavior they shouldn’t have to tolerate,” Gonzalez said.
He added that Wynn Resorts’ casino license for a $2.4 billion gambling palace in Everett should be revoked after the company’s former chief executive, Stephen A. Wynn, was accused of sexual misconduct. Wynn resigned in the wake of the accusations, but Gonzalez said the company “knew this was happening; they didn’t do anything about it.”
Massie said the state shouldn’t have casinos in the first place. Asked whether the Wynn license should be revoked, he said, “Probably.”
Massie indicated he would support regulated “rent stabilization” in Massachusetts and said the state needs to address its affordable housing crisis, which would include “opening up new forms of ownership and new forms of finance.”
“There’s a reason all those millennials are living with their parents — they can’t afford it,” he said.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, said he would not support rent control at the moment. The state needs to find ways to encourage more housing first, he said.
Asked whether they agreed with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s assessment that the criminal justice system is “racist . . . front to back,” Gonzalez said, “I think there are institutional problems that are resulting in racial disparities; I don’t know I’d go so far to say it’s racist.”
Said Massie, “We have a serious problem with institutional racism.”
The state primary is Sept. 4.