I’ve just arrived at the Channel 56 studios to live-blog a debate featuring the three Democratic candidates for Governor: Chris Gabrieli, Deval Patrick, and Tom Reilly. The debate is scheduled to air Thursday at 10:30 pm. I got here late, but so did everyone else. Hey, the great thing about the Big Dig being done is that there’s no traffic on the Southeast Expressway, right? Right??
Anyway, they’re setting up in the studio. Debating, and live-blogging, to begin shortly!
I’m sitting in a curtained-off area with a large-screen TV and a bunch of other reporters (the actual studio is next door). I’m sure I should recognize these guys (and yes, they’re all guys), but I don’t (update: Scott Helman just introduced himself – hi Scott!). Channel 56 has very generously hooked me into their DSL line so that I can live-blog this thing. It’s all below the fold!
4.44 OK, Karen Marinella is introducing the format – “real people” deciding the issues, and asking the questions. Now the three candidates are on screen. “But who are these men, really?” Now a little “up close and personal” on the candidates.
4.45 Gabrieli says he likes humor, SNL. Enjoys laughing. Loves practical jokes.
4.46 Now rehearsing Gabrieli’s life story – went into business to help his parents’ financial situation, etc.
4.47 Now the Deval Patrick story. “Raised in Chicago by a single mom on welfare.” DP: “a complicated family.” Laughs, drama, tears. Picture of DP with a HUGE ‘fro from high school days. Now a shot of him with Clinton and Janet Reno. Is Massachusetts ready for an African-American governor? DP on race: “it’s who I am, but it’s not ALL of who I am.” Why run, why now? “The job has gone undone for a long time.”
4.48. Reilly is up: state is going in the wrong direction. Family background: 3 daughters, 6 grandchildren. But a tough childhood: lost two brothers and his father while he was still a teenager. “Life isn’t always fair, but it isn’t fair to a lot of people…. If you have an opportunity to help people, you should help people.”
4.50. End of “up close and personal” segment. Now info on the format: questions were gathered from street interviews, emails, and 96.9 FM talk radio listeners. Format: for each question, 1 minute answer, followed by 3 minutes of open debate.
4.51. First topic: “Do you support the marriage amendment.” Lots of taped interviews showing people asking about gay marriage. Goes to DP: “I support gay marriage because the SJC got it right. People come before their government as equals.” Open for debate: Reilly: “I support gay marriage as well.” Says he’s proud of how MA has handled this difficult issue. “Time to move on. I’m opposed to the constitutional amendment.” Gabrieli: “I supported it in 2002, and I support it today. We’ve seen it works fine, hasn’t made any difference to marriages of anybody else.”
4.53 Reilly says he got a phone call from Romney after Goodridge was decided. Reilly says “No Governor, gay marriage is legal as of May 17, and I will enforce that law.” Again, “time for us to move on.”
4.54 Next topic: taxes. “MA becoming Taxachusetts again. What will you do to change that?” Taped interviews: “Please! Work on the taxes – get ‘em down. You’re killing us!” Also, “what will you do to lower the waste of tax dollars?”
Goes to Gabrieli. Says he supports rollback of income tax to 5.0%. However, he says, even Romney doesn’t support an immediate rollback to 5%. He says we can do it as quickly as economic growth supports it, and it should be based on economic triggers.
Now the debate. DP: “the tax to cut is the property tax.” Says it hits seniors, fixed income folks hardest. “Corrosive conversations in communities” regarding prop. 2-1/2 overrides. He says if we roll back the income tax further, the pressure on property tax will increase. We have to invest in cities & towns through local aid, infrastructure, education. So “we will have to live with the income tax at 5.3% for the time being” in order to work on property tax relief and find money for greater local aid, chapter 70 (school) funds.
Reilly is up: income tax should be rolled back to 5.0. “This is about keeping a promise…. This is $200 for the average family.” Cites higher gas bills, electricity bills, etc. Asks CG and DP: “if you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?”
DP: says Reilly had exactly the same position as DP less than a year ago, and “you were right then.” Reilly says we have a billion dollars in additional revenue, and (citing DP’s plan) $700M in waste to cut. So we can afford it. Gabrieli: agrees with Romney.
4.59: now some questions from callers from 96.9 FM – not surprisingly, they want to ask about illegal immigration. Goes to Reilly: “in the aftermath of 9/11, we do have to do a better job, and the Bush administration has done a miserable job securing our borders, and that has to happen.” Here, he says, they’re here and we have to deal with it. He supports McCain compromise bill – guest worker program allowing them to get in line for citizenship, as long as they’re paying taxes and not committing crimes. “Children are children, and you should not take it out on kids.” Reilly says “let ‘em go to school as long as they’re paying their way.”
DP: Backs stronger border control, but says we also have to deal with the plain fact that if we deport all illegal immigrants “our economy will collapse.” We should be able to bring that economy “out of the shadows.” Backs services for children.
CG: “we have to draw a clear distinction between legal and illegal.” Says we should do more to support legal immigrants, but says no resources should be spent on illegal immigrants. Says we should do more to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.
DP: Yes, we should make that distinction – and says the rules for legal immigrants are too complex. But “demagoguing illegal immigrants is not going to get us anywhere.” Says there’s a balance to strike in creating a path for the most responsible illegal immigrants to work toward citizenship. Reilly basically agrees with DP.
5.05. Next topic: education – more equitable distribution of funds? Make it more affordable? Goes to DP: backs ed reform, but says the “next chapter” has to include early education all the way through workforce development. “What does it take to create life learners?” Broader access to early ed for 3-4 year olds, all-day kindergarten, smaller classes, longer school day, after-school programs. Notes that we’re 47th in spending on higher ed.
CG: points to his work on after-school programs. “We need to reinvent schools to move beyond where we’ve been.” Touts Bronx HS of Science as a good model.
TR: all kids went to public schools – “the only one in this race that has done that.” Fought for higher standards, including defending MCAS graduation requirement. Backs significant increase in math/science. Also, wants to elevate UMass into top echelons of public universities in the US.
Marinella notes that communities are cutting. “Where is the money going to come from?” She notes prop. 2-1/2 override problem. DP: “that help is nowhere to be found unless we postpone the income tax rollback and we take that surplus and return it to the cities and towns in the form of local aid.” CG: says that job loss equals loss of tax revenue. Creating jobs is the key. (Silbert much?)
5.11. Next topic: Cape Wind. From the tape: “what do you plan to do in terms of clean, renewable energy, especially Cape Wind?”
CG: supports Cape Wind, but we have to get the deal right. Wants to be sure MA gets a share. And there’s more to do than just Cape Wind – notes the Barnstable wind proposal.
TR: “I support renewable, but this is a time when Governors can’t be taken advantage of. This is a huge ripoff.” Says that the project would give Nantucket Sound to a private developer for nothing. “There’s a right way to do it.” We need compensation for the state. Also, says the electricity isn’t guaranteed to go to the Cape – it just goes into the grid.
Marinella: “if there were compensation, would you be for it?” TR: wants a “meaningful role for the state.” And says to CG that “there’s nothing to negotiate.” CG: “with a veto in my pocket, I’ll get the deal.”
DP: “Tom is misinformed about
the deal” – says there is compensation for the state. Also notes numerous state and federal agencies that have reviewed and approved it. Says it’s an important energy/economic project, as well as a good symbol.
5.16. Next topic: affordability of living here, especially housing, but also cost of doing business here. Goes to TR: “we’re going to send the right message” that we’re going to grow the economy so that job opportunities will exist, and also will work with locals to help with housing supply. Notes Fall River, New Bedford transportation projects.
DP: “there isn’t a silver bullet.” #1 reason for people leaving is high cost of housing. Two strategies: we need more multi-family, clustered rental units – and approval process for developers who would build them is too complicated. Other thing is to invest in public transportation – notes that Fall River, New Bedford, Worcester transportation would open up housing markets.
CG: “It’s a supply problem.” Says that we need more “housing starts.” Real question is whether someone will really step up to “fight the fight.” (Hard to tell which fight he’s talking about here….forcing locals to change zoning rules, maybe?)
TR: “We’re a great state with tremendous assets. All the state needs is leadership.”
5.21. That’s the end of this part of the debate – up next: candidates question each other.
5.25: format: one question from each candidate to another candidate, 1 minute response, then open debate.
TR: sex offenders. Says we need minimum mandatories for sex offenders. To CG: “what is your plan to protect us from sex offenders?” CG: notes electronic monitoring bracelets for sex offenders, “critical to stay on top of it.” Says that generally we need fresh approaches – accountability for the outcomes we want.
Marinella: says this is a hot topic now. DP: “a really serious issue.” Gives kudos to TR for working hard on these issues, and asks if TR has been working on this for the last eight years. Asks if he put this proposal on the table before. TR: “we have worked on protecting kids from sexual predators.” DP: says he was particularly interested in the legislative proposal – has it been pushed before now? TR: says he has a long record of trying to protect kids. In favor of minimum mandatory sentences, up to 25 years for child rapists. Do you favor those minimum mandatory sentences? DP: yes. CG: yes. (Everyone in the press room is laughing – “well, I guess we solved that one.”)
5.29. Now CG’s question. Talking about the 1913 law. “I’m not a lawyer – was it right to defend it?” DP: says there was another strategy. “The sad part about letting the ballot question go forward is that it prolonged a debate that most of us have had enough of.” Says we should concentrate on more important issues.
TR: “gay marriage has gone very well in Massachusetts. I followed the law, and I defended the law. And it’s all worked out very well. You can’t pick and choose which laws you enforce and which laws you don’t enforce.” CG: that’s where I get confused. You say you’re for gay marriage, yet you take those stands. TR: says he followed the same legal policy as his predecessors. DP disagrees – says you had choices, even the predecessors think you did. And now DP says that TR’s choices on wage and hour enforcement has cost the state millions. TR’s looking a little angry now. TR says it’s time to move on. Tells CG that “it’s time for you to move on.”
5.33. DP is up, wants to talk about energy. Energy costs are becoming a serious impediment to our economic development. Says Cape Wind is the one available tangible step to move us into the future. Asks TR what his plan is, if not Cape Wind.
TR says “get ‘em further out into deep water.” Says we can develop wind energy out there. And notes “other proposals” out there. (Referring to Barnstable, maybe?) “Won’t see them in Nantucket Sound if I’m the Governor.” CG says that the state will get some percentage, and he thinks we can get more. But asks TR whether it’s just the “ripoff” aspect, or whether it’s something else. TR: “this has been designated an ocean sanctuary.” Says it’s just like tax breaks for oil companies. CG doesn’t like that – says it’s different. DP: “we have an energy crisis, and no one has shown leadership. We have the opportunity to show leadership.” TR: “both of you are falling for this.” Now CG and DP are ganging up on TR – they’re both hitting him pretty hard. DP: “a huge missed opportunity if we let this deal die…. If it’s done right, we can freeze rates for 10 years.”
CG: 1 minute closing. “An extraordinary opportunity in MA to make a change.” Romney/Healey have failed to create jobs like they said they would. I’ve helped create 100,000 jobs, and will help do so as Governor. Helped with stem cells research. I will be the Governor who understands what accountability means, and what results mean.
DP closing: “we’re at an important and in some ways profound crossroads.” Same old thing from same old insiders is what got us here, won’t help us move forward. There is a real choice in this election between yesterday’s politics and tomorrow’s. If you want leadership about gimmicks and slogans, I’m not your guy. But if you want leadership about your hopes and aspirations, I’m your guy.
TR closing: Last GOP governors haven’t finished the job, and I’ve finished every job you’ve given me. Talking a lot about “idears.” “I’ll get results – I’ll get things done. I’ll get Massachusetts moving again as your Governor.”
And that’s it! Signing off now. Again, you can watch this thing on Channel 56 tomorrow (Thursday) at 10:30 pm. I’ll post some thoughts a little later this evening.