Democrats share stage at debate, forum

Candidates for governor vow to level playing field

The five Democratic candidates for governor courted activists online and in person Tuesday, just 10 days before gathering at next week’s convention where the fate of their campaigns will be determined.

First, the candidates met for a spirited debate early Tuesday afternoon at The Boston Globe, where they discussed overtesting of public school students, Common Core Curriculum standards, a potential ballot question on repealing the state’s casino law, and health care, a debate that was streamed online.

They then gathered again, meeting Tuesday night at Roxbury Community College for a forum held by seven Democratic wards in Boston that stretch through the middle of the city and much of the black community.


“We have over 100 delegates from three wards that will be going to the convention,” Victoria Williams, the Ward 12 chairwoman, told the crowd gathered in the college’s media arts center. “Residents of Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, South End, Mission Hill, Dorchester, and Mattapan want to know who the candidates are, how they will tackle the issues facing us, and the agenda they will advance for the next four years.”

About 200 people listened to the five candidates Tuesday night — and three lieutenant governor candidates before them — talk about the need to shrink the achievement gap in education, reform a criminal justice system with a disproportionate number of black men imprisoned, and reduce the number of guns at the root of so much urban violence.

The candidates each discussed their personal efforts to combat racism by leveling the proverbial playing field in jobs, housing, and education.

The two-hour-long forum, called “A Community Conversation with Democratic Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor,” was moderated by Latoyia Edwards of NECN and Peniel Joseph, founding director of Tufts University’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

Unlike earlier in the day when most of the gubernatorial candidates were uncharacteristically pointed in their criticism of Governor Deval Patrick and the state’s faulty health insurance website, there was near universal praise of the state’s first African-American governor as the hopefuls answered the first question of the night about which of Patrick’s policies best aligned with their platform.


Donald M. Berwick and Attorney General Martha Coakley both applauded Patrick’s ability to combine efforts to reduce climate change with economic development, pointing to the state’s growing green-tech industry.

Juliette Kayyem, a former Globe columnist, praised the governor’s work in veterans affairs. Joseph Avellone said Patrick has “an exciting vision, and I think we’re on the right path” with closing the achievement gap. And State Treasurer Steve Grossman extolled Patrick’s proposal to limit people in Massachusetts to buying one gun per month.

There was rousing applause from some sections of the auditorium when Berwick pledged to move Massachusetts to a single-payer health insurance system, which is essentially like Medicare for all. It is a cornerstone issue for his campaign.

The mention of Coakley’s battle against the federal Defense of Marriage Act and her efforts to end predatory lending in communities of color received an equal response.

Still, there were those delegates in attendance Tuesday night who remained unsure about whom to vote for at next week’s Democratic state convention in Worcester. Democrats must capture 15 percent of delegates’ votes to appear on the ballot in the September primary.

“As a delegate, I think I have a little more thinking to do,” said Shaikh Hasib, who helped coordinate Tuesday’s forum and is a member of the Ward 12 Democratic Committee in Roxbury.


But listening to the candidates’ views on such things as figuring out how to provide funding so that all the state’s youngsters can attend prekindergarten, gave the 26-year-old valuable insight “on where the candidates stood on issues facing urban communities, and I don’t just mean communities of color, but Boston as a whole.”

Akilah Johnson can be reached at or on Twitter @akjohnson1922.