Baker, Cahill, Patrick debate on WBZ

Charles Baker, Timothy Cahill, Deval Patrick (AP)

Charles Baker, Timothy Cahill, Deval Patrick (AP)

Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, Republican Charles Baker and independent candidate Timothy Cahill clashed over taxes and their records in reforming government after opening their hourlong debate on WBZ-AM Tuesday night with reflections about the biggest personal challenges to shape their lives – in one case inducing tears.

Baker lost his composure as he discussed the death of his blind grandfather, with whom he shared the Boston Red Sox 1967 “Impossible Dream” season. He said it was his first taste of death. Cahill recalled his father losing his job, underscoring his commitment today to reversing the state’s economic challenges.

And Patrick reflected on a truck accident that stranded him in the desert for three days while he was working in the Sudan. He said it taught him about perseverance, “not withstanding challenges and adversity, expected and unexpected.”

Later, Baker and Cahill had a particularly nasty exchange as Baker blamed Cahill, the state treasurer, for cutting local aid.

“Charlie, I don’t cut local aid; I just put money into it,” said Cahill, who runs the state lottery.

When Baker complained about Cahill interrupting him, the treasurer accused him of “lying” and added: “You tell the truth, and I won’t interrupt you.”

The session was aired live on WBZ-AM and moderated by nighttime host Dan Rea.

Patrick, Baker, Cahill and the fourth person in the race, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein, all automatically advanced to the Nov. 2 general election because they lacked primary challengers.

Stein, however, was being excluded from the debate, prompting her to protest the event. Stein has been lagging in polls and fundraising.

“Inside the studio there will be heated arguments over which of the three men who have been admitted to the debate can best pursue the failing policies that Beacon Hill keeps imposing upon our commonwealth,” Stein said in a statement. “Outside the debate hall we are going to be telling the people of Massachusetts about the solutions that are being kept off the table.”

Cahill, a former Democrat, ultimately decided to vote in the Democratic primary, after saying earlier in the day he would not for fear it could jeopardize his independent status.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin sent Cahill a letter repeating prior assurances that his status could not be challenged based on his primary voting. That prompted Cahill to reverse course and vote. He initially said he planned to vote Democratic because friends were running in local races in his Quincy hometown.

In 2006, former Republican Christy Mihos completed an unchallenged independent campaign for governor despite voting in the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, a newly formed group backed by the Democratic Governors Association has launched a sweeping negative ad campaign against Baker.

Bay State Future started spending $650,000 this week on an ad criticizing Baker for developing a key Big Dig financing plan while serving as budget chief in the administrations of former GOP governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci.

It suggests Baker hasn’t been forthright about his contribution to the project’s spiraling cost, which eventually reached nearly $15 billion.

“Keep digging, Charlie,” says the ad kicker, as a shovel tosses dirt on a pile.

A spokeswoman for the DGA, which is charged with electing Democrats as governor, confirmed the group’s involvement and said the association was a majority donor to Bay State Future. The group plans further ads, as well.

The major buy comes just days after the Massachusetts Democratic Party spent far less, just over $100,000, on a pro-Patrick commercial.

It also comes months after a pro-Baker group, the Republican Governors Association, spent millions of dollars attacking Patrick and Cahill.

In a statement, Baker complained the ad violated Patrick’s pledge to wage a positive campaign.

“I fully expect to see the union and special interest attack machine come alive on behalf of Gov. Patrick and Treasurer Cahill because they know that re-electing Gov. Patrick or Treasurer Cahill is the only way they will hold onto power on Beacon Hill,” Baker said.

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