BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker worked to fend off attacks from his Democratic challenger, Jay Gonzalez, in their final debate of the election Thursday.
One politician not on the ballot hovered over the televised head-to-head match, Republican President Donald Trump.
Gonzalez faulted the Republican governor for not speaking out forcefully enough against Trump after the two were asked a question about the weekend attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead.
“The tragedy in Pittsburgh was a despicable act of hate and violence and our president is inciting this type of conduct with his hateful and divisive language,” Gonzalez said. “We need public officials who are going to stand up forcefully against it.”
Baker worked to put as much distance as he could between his campaign and his party’s top national office-holder, saying he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and doesn’t plan to vote for him if he runs for re-election.
“I’ve stood up and spoken out against the president on numerous occasions because his language in many cases is destructive and appalling,” Baker said, highlighting his administration’s efforts to combat hate crimes in Massachusetts.
During the debate — which ranged from discussions about the gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley to the state’s ongoing housing crunch — Baker repeatedly criticized a proposal by Gonzalez to raise $3 billion in extra revenue, calling it tenuous at best and saying it wouldn’t go nearly far enough to pay for all of the Democrat’s proposals.
“He’s spent that $3 billion five times since this debate started.” Baker said. “It’s dishonest.”
Gonzalez has proposed taxing the endowments of the state’s wealthiest colleges and universities like Harvard University and MIT and imposing a surtax of 4 percent on any portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million.
Together, the plans would eventually bring in about $3 billion in extra revenue annually, Gonzalez said.
“It is $3 billion more than zero, which is his plan,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also tried to tie Baker to more conservative Republican candidates running for office in Massachusetts, including Senate candidate state Rep. Geoff Diehl – who is hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren – and GOP candidate Jay McMahon, who is challenging Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey.
When pressed on his support for the two candidates, who hold more conservative positions than he does, Baker said he had promised to support the Republican ticket in Massachusetts.
During the debate, Baker more than once pointed to instances where he had worked with Healey and Warren on key issues.
Gonzalez pressed Baker on his support for Diehl and McMahon.
“He’s blindly supporting the Republican ticket no matter the consequences,” Gonzalez said.
Both candidates outlined their plans to bring internet broadband to western Massachusetts communities without access, help expand housing opportunities in the face of soaring home costs, and expand the state’s reliance on renewable sources of energy, including offshore wind, solar and hydropower.
Asked to name a personal hero, Gonzalez named former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. Gonzalez worked under Patrick as his budget chief.
Baker named Abraham Lincoln.
Baker is running for a second four-year term as the top office-holder in a state where Republicans make up a small fraction of the total voting population. He has maintained a daunting lead in polls and fundraising.
The debate was shown on WCVB-TV and was hosted by a consortium of media outlets, including The Boston Globe and WBUR-FM.
Election Day is Tuesday.
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