BOSTON (CBS) – Democrat Jay Gonzalez came into his first debate, hosted Tuesday by WBZ, with incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker hoping to raise his profile and his poll numbers.
He started by trying to tie Baker, a Republican, to President Donald Trump, who is highly unpopular in the state. Specifically, Gonzalez criticized Baker for endorsing Geoff Diehl, the Republican hoping to unseat Sen. Elizabeth Warren in November.
WATCH: Complete WBZ Debate
“Gov. Baker just said his loyalty is to the Republican ticket,” Gonzalez said. “Even if that means sending someone to the United States Senate who would do everything in his power to undercut a woman’s right to choose.”
Baker, who polling shows has a large lead over Gonzalez about a month from Election Day, responded by distancing himself from the president.
“My views on Donald Trump are quite well known,” Baker said to WBZ moderator Jon Keller. “I didn’t vote for him, and I worked with other governors and senators to fight back against his cuts to the Affordable Care Act, for which we were successful.”
Baker also touted his poor grades from the NRA and his support for Planned Parenthood to separate himself from the Trump administration. Gonzalez countered that Baker’s support for Diehl, a staunch conservative who co-chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in Massachusetts, raises questions about his commitment to women’s issues and gun control.
The debate then turned to National Grid and its ongoing lockout of more than a thousand of its workers. Earlier this week, amid that lockout, a National Grid worker over-pressurized part of a natural gas line in Woburn, leaving 300 homes without gas service until at least Wednesday.
“The National Grid workers, I think, have been treated reprehensibly by the company who have locked them out, stopped paying them, stopped their health insurance coverage,” Gonzalez said. He also called on Baker to hire more inspectors for the Department of Public Utilities, citing the recent tragedy in the Merrimack Valley.
Baker countered that his administration has worked hard to bring the two sides together.
“We have put them in the same room to see if we can mediate the differences and get them to hammer out an agreement,” Baker said. “I’d love to say we’ve been successful in doing that.”
On transportation, Gonzalez went after Gov. Baker for the poor performance of the MBTA, which again saw a winter filled with delays. He proposed levying new taxes on millionaires and some college endowments to raise a total of $3 billion.
“With the lack of urgency and the fact the system hasn’t been fixed,” Gonzalez said, “I’m surprised that commuters haven’t revolted and started a petition to change the names of these T passes from the Charlie Card to the ‘Where’s Charlie Card?'”
Baker responded that his administration has poured billions into improving the system and has seen some improvements.
“We have a plan to spend $8 billion over the next five years on the stuff on the T that’s going to improve the bus system, the commuter rail and the rapid transit system, and that’s where our money should be spent,” Baker said.
The election is Nov. 6.