Lt. Governor candidates debate for the first and final time ahead of upcoming election

Election will be held on Nov. 6

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Lt. Governor candidates debate for the first and final time ahead of upcoming election

(Sam Brewer / WGBH News)

(Sam Brewer / WGBH News)

(Sam Brewer / WGBH News)

(Sam Brewer / WGBH News)

By John Buday

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In the Lieutenant Governor debate, incumbent Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and challenger Quentin Palfrey discussed a range of topics from gun control, to immigration, to healthcare, to sexual abuse and beyond.

Both candidates talked their policies; however, Palfrey focused more on criticizing his opponent than Polito, who disputed his claims.

WGBH’s Greater Boston aired on Monday night from the Roisin Dubh (Black Rose) restaurant in Boston, with host Jim Braude serving as moderator. He began by asking the candidates about the shooting in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 people were killed on Saturday.

Palfrey and Polito each expressed support for more extensive gun control in light of the tragedy.

The incumbent mentioned passing the 2017 Extreme Risk Protection Order to ban bump stocks in Massachusetts among other past efforts. She also stressed the importance of civility and finding common ground between the parties.

Democratic nominee Palfrey referenced her and Governor Charlie Baker’s support of Geoff Diehl, President Trump’s co-campaign chair in 2016 and Elizabeth Warren’s opponent in the upcoming Massachusetts senate election.

“I think saying that we should replace Elizabeth Warren with Donald Trump’s chairman, who is a pro-NRA voice, on the national level, is pointing us in the wrong direction,” Palfrey said.

The conversation turned to party divide, where Braude asked Polito repeatedly about possible connections between “Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric” and the recent rise in political violence.

Polito reiterated that the president’s words on Twitter and in public did not help these situations and “are more divisive than they are unifying.”

Palfrey disagreed with the notion of extreme rhetoric among both Democrats and Republicans, saying the Trump administration possesses a particular cruelty that Republicans endorsed, one that involves tearing apart families and building walls between neighbors. He also said the choices made by the Polito-Baker team clashed against their progressive messages.

Polito countered that saying the past actions of herself and Baker speak louder than this endorsement. She referenced their support for temporary protected status for immigrants and standing up for DACA residents as examples.

“We look at how we conduct ourselves here in the commonwealth,” Polito said. “We have a bipartisan approach, we find common ground. We are civil and respectful in the discourse that we have here, which is very protective.”

She also responded to criticism for the veto of the Safe Communities Act, saying that individual communities should have control over immigrant sanctuary programs rather than the state itself.

Palfrey then jumped to healthcare, another area where he said the actions of the Polito-Baker team do not align with their claims.

Palfrey advocated switching to a single-payer system rather than following in the president’s footsteps as he claims the governor did through knocking 140,000 people off of the MassHealth Medicaid program.

Claiming his comment lacks credibility, Polito said she inherited a broken healthcare system upon taking office that her and Baker had to redo.

“A number of people who were paying for health insurance were tossed into the MassHealth program,” Polito said. “That represents 40 percent of our budget [the state Medicaid]… We have universal coverage and a very high quality of care here in the commonwealth.”

Braude also asked Polito whether Boston Mayor Marty Walsh made the correct decision hiring Carlos Henriquez to the city council. In 2014, Henriquez was sentenced to six months in prison for punching a woman who refused to have sex with him.

According to Polito, Mayor Walsh has the prime authority to choose who he thinks would best fit the position, but her administration would have maintained their current zero tolerance policy. She also encouraged anyone who “feels that they are victimized or in a vulnerable place” to let their voices be heard.

Turning to the challenger, Braude raised how the Gonzalez-Palfrey ticket has not criticized members of their own party throughout the entire campaign, despite their opponents criticizing fellow Republicans.

Palfrey reiterated the importance of the upcoming election, saying Massachusetts needs unity to combat various forms of discrimination. That includes prejudice targeting the LGBTQ+ community, where he called Polito “one of the leaders in the fight against equal marriage.”

Polito denied this and described her marriage equality record as solid, though she also expressed gratitude for her mindset having evolved since the early 2000s.

In the closing moments of the broadcast, host Braude asked each candidate for Lt. Governor a final question, with 30 seconds for answers allotted per person.

Braude cited a Boston Globe endorsement for Charlie Baker that he asked Palfrey to respond to. It read, “But Gonzalez hasn’t made a convincing case that he can do better than Baker.”

“I worked under President Barack Obama,” Palfrey said. “We tried to build an economy that works for everyone. And I think one of the most important question is ‘are we going to fight back against the Trump administration, the attacks on our values? Are we going to lead in the way that Massachusetts has always lead?’”

The same editorial also said that too often “Baker is on the hunt for the safe middle ground,” and Braude asked Polito if this would remain the case for an upcoming term in office.

“I have witnessed with my own eyes the bold leadership that Charlie has brought to the table,” Polito said. “Taking on some of the major reforms needed that were left over from the prior administration. Whether we’re fixing [the Department of Children and Families]… creating over 200,000 jobs, getting back to work, we have proven results in the kind of bipartisan leadership that people really want to see in this commonwealth.”

The 2018 Massachusetts gubernatorial election between the Baker-Polito and Gonzalez-Palfrey tickets is on Nov. 6, with poll times open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. University of Massachusetts students have until Nov. 2 for early voting and Nov. 6 to send in absentee votes.

 

John Buday can be reached at [email protected]