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Single-payer health care. High-speed rail to Springfield. More money for early education — and hey, while we’re at it, more for K-12 education too.

Both Democratic candidates for the party’s gubernatorial nomination are making big promises on the campaign trail, and in the process they have settled on a similar critique of Governor Charlie Baker, the GOP incumbent Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie hope to unseat in November. In a word: Meh.

They give Baker grudging credit for keeping the state functioning and for eschewing the nuttier elements of President Trump’s Republican Party — but they fault him for what both say are too-modest ambitions for Massachusetts. In interviews with the Globe, Gonzalez and Massie both recited, almost word for word, the same pitch to voters: If not being crazy is good enough, then we’re not aiming high enough.


Whether that criticism is fair, or resonates with voters, will be hashed out in the fall.

In the meantime, the question facing Democrats is which of the two is more likely to make good on the more expansive (and expensive) vision for education, health care, and transportation that they both say Massachusetts needs. Of the two, Gonzalez is better equipped to translate those bold promises into reality. He won the Democratic Party’s endorsement at its convention, and the Globe endorses him as well in the Sept. 4 primary.

Gonzalez served as the secretary of administration and finance for most of the Patrick administration, including the darkest years of the recession, when state finances imploded. He helped manage the state through that crisis, gaining a granular understanding of how Beacon Hill works. He wants to move the state to a single-payer health care system, though he has not sketched out how he plans to pay for it. Gonzalez also wants to increase investment in public transportation, and backed the innovative congestion pricing plan for tolls that Baker vetoed this year.


His opponent, 1994 lieutenant governor nominee Bob Massie, has a compelling life story. He suffered from hemophilia, which caused him to contract both HIV and hepatitis C. He survived in part because of a liver transplant that he received in 2009. On the trail, he has tried to run to the left of Gonzalez — for instance, he promises to reinstate rent control .

Whichever Democrat wins the nomination has a challenge ahead of him, considering Baker’s prodigious fundraising and centrist reputation. Gonzalez has the right background to go toe-to-toe with Baker, and if he can outline a credible plan to pay for his ambitious agenda, he is well positioned to give the incumbent a real race.