In Uncertain Political Climate, Democratic Challengers Hope to Unseat Popular Gov. Baker

By most accounts, Gov. Charlie Baker is popular with the people of Massachusetts despite being a Republican in a state that’s known to be one of the bluest in the country. Baker’s popularity has survived his mediocre environmental record and his bill mandating state cooperation with federal immigration officers, but we have yet to see whether what looks to be a growing Democratic wave election might knock him off his perch.

Three Democrats have emerged as the primary contenders for the Governor’s mansion:

Jay Gonzalez of Needham was a member of Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration and helped manage the state budget.

Bob Massie of Somerville has been working as a climate activist for decades and is the co-founder of sustainability reporting organization Global Reporting Initiative.

Setti Warren of Newton is an Iraq War veteran and the former mayor of Newton.

No consensus has yet emerged around a candidate. In our corner of the state, South Hadley State Rep. John Scibak has endorsed Gonzalez, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and Amherst State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose have endorsed Warren. And longtime activist Frances Crowe of Northampton has endorsed Massie.

Our Revolution Massachusetts, a progressive political group serving as an offshoot of presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ campaign, recently undermined its own efforts to provide an endorsement of one of the candidates by excluding two of the three candidates from an email blast asking supporters whom to support.

Only Massie’s name was included, and he received just under half the support of those polled, with the majority selecting not to endorse at this time.

Andrea Burns, press spokesperson with Our Revolution, said Massie is a member of Our Revolution Massachusetts and there was a prevailing thought that he would have the majority support in the group, but the “truth is that [idea] was not widespread among the membership.”

“Not everyone agreed with that decision. Listen, any of these three guys would be better than Charlie Baker any day of the week,” Burns said. “In retrospect, I think we do feel it was premature to send out something like that because we didn’t have the buy-in that we should have had from the entire state.”

All three Democrats met at a Gubernatorial Forum at Greenfield Middle School earlier this month hosted by Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR) where they largely agreed on education and health care issues.

One of the first topics the candidates discussed was education, specifically in regards to charter schools and fully funding public education in Massachusetts.

Gonzalez said he doesn’t think additional charter schools are needed in the commonwealth.

“Essentially, it’s building a separate public school system from the one we have right now,” he said. “We should not be creating a competitive system.”

Warren said as a former School Committee member in Newton for eight years, he believes that good education starts with strong leadership and investments.

“Folks, we need to invest in public education,” he said, noting he campaigned against a 2016 ballot question that sought to increase the cap on charter schools. “At this moment, the state of Massachusetts is not committed to educating every single child in every single district of this state. The [funding] formula needs to be redone … We know the formula’s been underfunded for many years.”

Massie, a former professor for eight years, said approving a proposed tax for people who earn more than $1 million is a critical step for the state to gain additional revenue for education.

He described charter schools as the “bane of public education.”

“They are stealing money from the public school system,” Massie said.

The candidates also shared their views on single-payer health care in Massachusetts.

Warren said he strongly believes that a single payer system should be adopted by the state.

“What I believe we cannot do is continue down the road we are on with Charlie Baker and that is having some of the most vulnerable people shoulder those costs with co-pays and lowering deductibles, making it more expensive. This is the solution down in Washington [D.C] down there with Republicans and Donald Trump. This is the solution for Charlie Baker,” Warren said.

He said he thinks part of the solution would come from reducing administrative costs and drug costs.

“I understand that this is complicated and this is hard,” Warren said. “It is not going to be a scenario where you put a key in, turn it, and magically it happens … We need the political will in the Governor’s Office to push this through and engage all the residents, so we can do something about it.”

Massie said Massachusetts needs to be a leader in healthcare and would like to explore expanding Medicaid.

“My career has been bringing people together who do not agree and focusing them on a difficult goal and then having the combination of diplomatic skills and forcefulness to make sure that we achieve this,” he said.

From an early age, Massie has had hemophilia, a rare blood disease that causes bleeding from the joint. He said his parents moved his family to France, where he was able to walk again thanks to the country’s healthcare system.

“I would not be standing anywhere if I had not been liberated by a commitment to national health insurance and single payer,” he said.

Gonzalez said he believes access to healthcare is a “fundamental human right” and believes the existing healthcare system is too complicated, expensive, and lacking in quality. He supports a single-payer health care system because he believes it is fundamentally better.

“We need to do better for people,” he said. “I’m the only candidate in this race that has experience in the healthcare industry. When I worked in state government as Gov. Patrick’s secretary of administration and finance, I was the chair of the Board of Health connector and helped implement Massachusetts health reform successfully here … When I left the Patrick administration, I was the CEO of a health insurance company [CeltiCare Health] that covered low-income people in the Medicaid program here. And I saw firsthand as CEO of this company, all the problems we had despite our best efforts getting a lot of our low income members access to the services that they needed.”

FCCPR has yet to endorse any of the three candidates, said David Greenberg, a member of the coordinating committee for FCCPR, adding that the group’s 300 members would decide whether or not to give their endorsement sometime in February.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com.

Author: Chris Goudreau

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