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Five takeaways from the Independent #OpDebate

Evan Falchuk interjects during the Globe Opinion Independent #OpDebate on Tuesday afternoon. Zack Wittman for the Boston Globe

On Tuesday, the independent candidates for governor came to Morrissey Boulevard for the latest Globe Opinion Debate (#OpDebates on Twitter). Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Self-financing = candor

So far, all three independent candidates for governor — venture capitalist Jeff McCormick, health care entrepreneur Evan Falchuk, and pastor Scott Lively — have largely self-funded their campaigns. Because of that, and also because they have nothing to lose, they sound strikingly uninhibited. The leading major-party candidates have hedged on casinos; all three independents straightforwardly favored letting voters have their say on a casino repeal. (Falchuk said he himself would vote against a repeal in the fall.) Even if they don’t attract voters, the independents’ candid views could exert pressure on the Democrats and Republicans.


Just how much job creation?

McCormick has built a campaign around job creation, but has been criticized for being vague. At the debate, he was wary of indexing the gas tax to inflation to pay for transportation infrastructure — because, he said, it’s better to raise the tax base by growing companies and creating jobs. McCormick cited a company he helped launch that collects energy from landfills. But Falchuk pounced, saying “there isn’t enough garbage in the world” to raise the amount of money needed without indexing the gas tax, too.

Once Republicans, but not anymore

Falchuk, McCormick, and Lively all said they were once registered Republicans. Lively said he abandoned the GOP because he found it too left wing. But both Falchuk and McCormick said they left the party because they found themselves in the political center, supporting both Republicans and Democrats for office, but feeling unmoved by either party. Essentially, the two are presenting themselves as fiscally conservative moderates, which raises some interesting questions. What would have happened if they’d run in the GOP primary instead? And what happens on Election Day, if they siphon support from Charlie Baker?


Unusual fears of the Common Core

Critics of the Common Core often complain that the new K-12 curriculum guidelines put too much emphasis on testing. That was McCormick’s view; while standards are important, he said, the program puts too much pressure on teachers. But Lively had a different complaint: He opposes what he calls the “Commie Core” because he thinks it turns kids into “socialist robots.” Falchuk seemed less worried about his 14-year-old daughter’s future, on account of her being “awesome.” But he did lament the fact that, already, she sounds cynical about education.

Health care problems, big and small

Asked how much voters should care that the state’s Health Connector website was riddled with technical problems, Falchuk at first brushed off the complaints. Saying “the website is broken,” he said, becomes an easy way to avoid talking about structural problems with the state’s health care system. Falchuk, whose company offers second opinions from medical experts, has been deeply critical of Partners HealthCare’s proposed merger with South Shore Hospital, which he says will raise the cost of care. Eventually, he agreed that the connector’s botched rollout was a significant issue for consumers.