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Democratic candidates for gov. partake in forum

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

The five candidates for the Democratic nomination in this year’s gubernatorial race answered questions on a range of issues including tax reform, healthcare, education, gun violence, local farming, immigration, and the Citizens United ruling at the first public forum of the election held at Northampton High School last night.

The candidates for the Sept. 9 Democratic Primary Election include Joseph Avellone, a surgeon and former Wellesley Selectman, Donald Berwick, who oversaw the Medicare and Medicaid Programs under the Obama Administration, the state’s Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Treasurer Steven Grossman and former National Security Advisor Juliette Kayyem.

When asked about the issue of single-payer healthcare, Coakley said the state was “not ready” for such a program, siding with Avellone, who touted the state’s 97 percent coverage rate and proposed focusing on maintaining affordable healthcare costs.

Grossman said he would not rule out the single-payer model.

Berwick said he is a proponent of single-payer healthcare and would implement a yearlong study to determine its practicality in Massachusetts on the first day of his administration.

All candidates noted the need to increase state revenue but proposed different courses of action.

Berwick said he would be in favor of reforming the “highly wasteful” healthcare system and diverting money to fund education and other social programs.

Kayyem proposed steering money from the criminal justice system to social services as a way to save money, and placed an emphasis on input from local governments in generating revenue.

Coakley stressed the need to not burden the lower and middle classes with tax hikes, but proposed raising revenue through a modified “fair tax code,” while Grossman emphasized tax exceptions for the lower and middle classes.

Avellone would oppose a tax increase to generate revenue, as he said that such reform would inevitably hit the middle class. He proposed controlling healthcare costs as his primary strategy in increasing revenue.

On the issue of education, all candidates focused on the need to establish universal preschool in the state.

Avellone said his highest priority would be to reduce the achievement gap and prepare all high school graduates for college and the “global workforce.”

Berwick said that the solution to education is investment in teachers. Grossman agreed and said that he would explore ways to increase revenue to fund improvements.

On the issue of gun control, Kayyem emphasized the need for tougher sentences and background checks, noting that some of the guns that come into the state are a result of comparatively lax gun laws in surrounding New England states.

Attorney General Coakley agreed, touting Massachusetts’ gun laws as the strictest in the nation.

When asked about the fact that Massachusetts deports immigrants at a rate above the national average, Grossman criticized Coakley’s support of the Secure Communities Program and opposition towards allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.

Grossman called drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants a “public safety issue” and said that the state is “sending too many people away for too little of violations.”

Berwick nicknamed the fingerprint and information-sharing program the “Insecure Communities Act,” and said that he is in favor of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants at state universities.

Kayyem emphasized that, “the best law enforcement is one in which you engage the communities,” noting that all citizens, immigrants included, need to “feel free to come forward,” and cannot do so in fear of deportation.

All candidates took a stand against the Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling that granted corporations the same role as individuals under the law.

Grossman said that he would support public financing of elections. Kayyem emphasized the need for mobilizing the youth vote as means to combat money in politics and Coakley spoke to the need for a constitutional amendment to reverse the judicial decision.

All candidates agreed on the need for a raise of the minimum wage and expressed concern at the growing poverty in the nation and the Commonwealth in particular.

When asked about local farming and access to fresh and healthy food, Avellone emphasized that investment in farming programs would help solve the “widespread epidemic of childhood obesity,” and voiced his support for vouchers and prescriptions for healthy foods, particularly in urban areas.

Berwick agreed and proposed allowing citizens who used EBT cards to purchase healthy food at favorable rates at local markets.

Eric Bosco can be reached at ebosco@umass.edu.

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