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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mass. candidates for governor spar in debate

BOSTON – The three Democratic candidates for governor sparred on everything from casinos and health care to President Barack Obama’s legacy in a televised debate on Wednesday.

During the hour-long face-off, sponsored by a consortium of media outlets, Attorney General Martha Coakley, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and former federal health care official Donald Berwick tried to sway voters with less than a week to go before Primary Day. ...

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BOSTON – The three Democratic candidates for governor sparred on everything from casinos and health care to President Barack Obama’s legacy in a televised debate on Wednesday.

During the hour-long face-off, sponsored by a consortium of media outlets, Attorney General Martha Coakley, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and former federal health care official Donald Berwick tried to sway voters with less than a week to go before Primary Day.

In one of the sharper exchanges of the night, Berwick asked Coakley how she’ll avoid the mistakes that cost her the 2010 special U.S. Senate election to Republican Scott Brown.

“Scott brown was beatable,” Berwick said. “Why is it different this time?”

Coakley said she’s had more time to put together a stronger political organization that she couldn’t during the special election. She also pointed out that after that loss, she mounted a successful re-election campaign for attorney general.

“I have a record as a district attorney and attorney general,” she said. “I’m proud of my record.”

Grossman also targeted Coakley during the debate, calling her proposal to make $500 million in funding available over the next decade to help speed up economic growth across the state a “fake plan.” He suggested it wasn’t ambitious enough.

“It is not going to leave a footprint on the beach,” he said.

While all three generally praised Obama, arguing he’s helped add jobs while battling hostile Republicans in Congress, they took issue with some of Gov. Deval Patrick’s leadership calls when asked to name areas where they disagree with the state’s top Democrat.

Grossman and Coakley criticized the governor over the botched rollout of the state’s new health care website and the vetting of companies hoping to secure the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries.

Berwick said he disagreed profoundly with Patrick’s championing of a law to license up to three casinos and a slots parlor. He said he supports a ballot question that would repeal the 2011 casino law.

Coakley again defended her suggestion that if elected she would consider whether Springfield should be allowed to have a casino even if a ballot question passes.

“If it’s repealed. Let’s keep an open mind,” Coakley said, noting Springfield voters have approved the idea of a casino there.

Grossman said if voters approve the repeal question, that should be the end of a debate about a Springfield casino.

On health care, Berwick again noted that he’s the only candidate to support a so-called single-payer health care plan.

All three were also asked about a proposal that would seek to bring the 2024 Olympics to Boston.

Coakley and Berwick suggested the Olympics could be a boon for Boston and the region while Grossman said he would not support the Olympic bid if it was not fiscally responsible.

A series of recent polls have shown Coakley holding onto a sizable lead over Grossman and Berwick among likely Democratic primary voters.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face off against the winner of the Republican primary pitting Charlie Baker, the former Harvard Pilgrim CEO and a Weld and Cellucci administration official, against tea party-affiliated businessman Mark Fisher. Patrick isn’t seeking re-election.

The primary elections are Sept. 9.