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Baker, Gonzalez Tangle Over Party Loyalty, Spending Promises In Final Debate

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Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez had a final contentious debate Thursday night as the Massachusetts election campaign draws to a close.

Trailing badly in the public opinion polls, Gonzalez attacked Baker for “blindly supporting” a slate of Republican candidates in Massachusetts that includes outspoken supporters of President Trump. 

The incumbent punched back and accused the challenger of being "dishonest” with voters about paying for his many campaign promises.

In one tense exchange, Gonzalez called on Baker to defend his endorsement of the Republican ticket that includes Geoff Diehl, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, and Attorney General candidate Jay McMahon.

" This is not a race for Attorney General and not a race for U.S. Senate, its a race for governor, and I'll put my track record up against anybody," said Baker.

Gonzalez said President Trump is threatening " our values" and accused Baker of "putting loyality to the Republican party above your commitment to these values."

 The candidates were asked to use three words to describe President Trump.  Gonzalez said " hateful, racist un-American."  Baker said, "outrageous, disgraceful, and a divider."

Held at the studios of WCVB-TV in Needham, and moderated by Maria Stephanos of WCVB and Bob Oakes of WBUR, this was the last of three broadcast debates Baker and Gonzalez participated in.

As in the earlier debates, Baker sought to demonstrate his bipartisan bonafides. He said his administration had worked successfully with local officials, many of whom are Democrats. He pointed to working with Attorney General Maura Healey on a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company over the opioid crisis.

Gonzalez frequently returned to a familiar mantra of his campaign; that Baker has not moved fast enough to fix the state’s mass transit infrastructure.   He promised to deliver on favorite progressive causes including universal pre-school, debt-free higher public education, and single-payer health care.

"I have a plan to raise $3 billion from the wealthy to spend on transportation and education and I have been very open and honest about the fact we need to do that and treat it with a sense of urgency," said Gonzalez.

Baker defended his record and accused Gonzalez of making promises he can’t keep.

"He's spent that billion dollars five times since this debate started; three times on transporation and he just spent it again on early childhood education and later he'll spend it on k-12 education," said Baker. "It is dishonest to stand here in front of the voters, say you are going to be bold, and talk about initiatives you don't have the dollars to pay for."

Gonzalez said he’ll raise a billion dollars a year by taxing the endowments of the state’s wealthiest private colleges.

The tone of the final debate continued right to the end when the candidates were asked to describe their opponent in three words.   Gonzalez answered, "Status quo governor."  Baker described Gonzalez as "Smart, ambitious, and public servant"

Friday was the final day of the two-week early voting period in Massachusetts.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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