SWAMPSCOTT — The two Democratic candidates vying to unseat Gov. Charlie Baker tried to present contrasting approaches, but took similar stances on many issues discussed during a debate at the Swampscott Senior Center on Monday night.
Jay M. Gonzalez and Robert Massie discussed and took similar stances on transportation, education and healthcare at Monday’s forum, ahead of the Democratic primary on Sept. 4. The winner will face Baker, a Republican, in the Nov. 6 election.
Gonzalez, the former state Secretary of Administration and Finance under Gov. Deval Patrick, described himself as someone who would fight for “the little guy,” unlike Baker, who he said has done nothing to help regular people get ahead during his tenure.
“I want to make Massachusetts a leader again,” Gonzalez said. “When I’m your governor, we will aim high and make a meaningful difference in everyone’s lives.”
Gonzalez spoke about how he feels his experience in state government would be an asset if he were elected governor. He oversaw the budget in 2007 during a recession.
But Massie, an Episcopal priest and founder of the Global Reporting Initiative, said the state needs stronger and different leadership than is on Beacon Hill. He said residents need a governor who understands not only what’s going on around the state, but around the world.
But despite how the candidates strived to differentiate themselves from one another in their remarks, both spent much of the hour-long forum agreeing on many of the issues presented and criticizing Baker’s leadership.
Both are in support of moving to a single-payer healthcare system, making college more affordable for residents, and investing in and improving public transportation.
On transportation, both said they would fire Keolis Commuter Services, which operates and maintains the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Commuter Rail. Gonzalez said, if elected, he plans to be the first governor to manage the commuter rail which means he would be held accountable if there were problems with it.
Massie said the state needs not only a bold dream, but a bold plan to improve transportation, citing high speed bullet trains that have existed in Japan for 20 years as where they should be headed.
Both have acknowledged that it will be difficult to unseat Baker, the most popular governor in the country with a war chest of more than $8.4 million — Gonzalez and Massie have raised $431,660 and $318,102 respectively — but the candidates spent much of the evening describing the Republican as someone who hasn’t worked to bring about change.
“It’s easy to be popular when you don’t do anything and you don’t take a stand,” Gonzalez said of the governor.