They both support moving Massachusetts to a single-payer health care system. They both promise to vastly expand access to early education. They both want to supercharge the state’s effort to address climate change. And they both think Charlie Baker’s done an abysmal job as governor.
But between Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie, the two Democrats vying for their party’s gubernatorial nomination Tuesday, there are also differences in how they promise to govern and their approaches to the big job.
And there are some substantive differences on policy, too.
Massie wants to get rid of the MCAS test as a high school graduation requirement but keep some forms of assessment before students get a diploma. Gonzalez wants to keep the MCAS requirement but “de-emphasize the weight” of the high-stakes exam.
Gonzalez thinks, on balance, the Fiscal and Management Control Board overseeing the MBTA has been important and says heightened oversight ought to continue. Massie doesn’t think the board, which has sought to control spending on daily operations while boosting investment in infrastructure, has been good for the state.
Massie wants to change state law to allow for the return of rent control, or “rent stabilization,” as he calls it. Gonzalez doesn’t, believing the state’s housing crisis is best addressed by building more affordable units, among other efforts.
Massie says charter schools have been, “overall, a negative” for Massachusetts. Gonzalez says he doesn’t know whether charter schools — which use tax dollars from local school districts, but tend not to be unionized and usually operate with state, not district, supervision — have been a positive or a negative for the state’s children.
The state’s landmark 2016 opioid law limited initial opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply. But in what critics call a loophole, it allows practitioners to give out a longer prescription if they deem it medically necessary. Gonzalez, a former health insurance executive, wants to tighten that language so that people who have an acute short-term need for pain medication only get a short-term supply. Massie, who has had a medical history that included bouts of severe pain, does not.
Those differences were extracted by the Globe in interviews with each candidate this week, Gonzalez at his Cambridge campaign headquarters and Massie at a Somerville barbecue restaurant.
But their campaigns — which will culminate in the Sept. 4 primary election for one, and Nov. 6 general election for the other — have been focused less on policy disagreements and more on vision.
Gonzalez framed his campaign as bold and anchored in a deep understanding of how to move ideas to reality on Beacon Hill, all while remaining cognizant that even as he wants the rich to pay more, “the amount you can ask taxpayers to pay in taxes is limited.”
Massie described his vision as sweeping, ambitious, interconnected, future-focused, and anchored in the best global practices.
What’s called for now, he said, is “simultaneously pursuing economic prosperity, social justice, and environmental integrity, environmental improvement. This is a very common approach around the world, and yet it is foreign to our thinking and our vocabulary.”
A 62-year-old environmentalist and entrepreneur, Massie referenced his varied career — including leading a sustainability nonprofit linking environmental groups and institutional investors — and his travels around the globe, calling out Sweden, Denmark, and England by name.
“Jay seems to have very limited understanding of the global economy and where it’s headed. And I think that’s critical,” he said.
Gonzalez, a 47-year-old former state budget chief under Deval Patrick, trumpeted his knowledge of how the State House really works, and what he said is his record of delivering reforms. “I have experience in state government getting big things done,” he said. “I know there’s no dictator in government and it takes a lot of listening and understanding.”
He said both he and Massie have an ambitious progressive agenda.
But, Gonzalez added, seeming to implicitly draw a contrast with his opponent: “It’s not going to matter what we want to do, unless we actually deliver on it.”
Still, on big matters of major state policy, both Democrats line up on the same side, even if their policy proposals and life experiences don’t exactly align.
Both want to move Massachusetts toward a single-payer health care system in their first term with a sense of urgency. (“Unlike Bob, I have experience in the health care industry,” Gonzalez said. “On many issues, I have led and he’s caught up . . . first and foremost on single-payer,” Massie said.)
Both want to plow new money into ensuring families have access to affordable day care and pre-kindergarten. (Massie wants to provide free preschool to all kids beginning at age 3. Gonzalez wants to ensure every child age 0-5 has access to affordable child care and preschool by the end of his first term.)
And both want to urgently expand offshore wind power, shifting Massachusetts more rapidly toward renewable sources of energy.
If there’s one area where there’s no daylight between Gonzalez and Massie, it’s their negative assessment of the incumbent they are hoping to unseat. In the separate interviews, both were asked to assign a letter grade to the Republican governor’s three years and eight months in office.
The answer from both? “D.”