NEEDHAM -- With just one week to go before elections, Gov. Deval Patrick, Republican Charlie Baker, Independent Tim Cahill and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein put forth their well-honed campaign messages one last time during their final televised debate on Monday night.
The evening began with pandemonium outside of Boston Channel 5 studios in Needham, where the debate was filmed. Baker supporters and Patrick supporters set up camp on opposite sides of the street, and shouted at each other through bullhorns. Cars honked and swerved to avoid hitting the volunteers in the dark.
Inside, things were a lot more tame. The candidates for governor sat around a conference table and delivered their well-honed campaign messages.
Gov. Patrick touted his record on jobs, health care and education.
“We’ve made choices in the last four years: Choices to invest in education, health care and job creation. That’s why we’re first in America in student achievement, first in America in health care coverage for our residents and growing jobs faster than 46 other states,” Patrick said.
But Republican candidate Charlie Baker had a different interpretation of Patrick's last four years in office.
"The Governor can say all he wants about how much better things are getting and how he’s investing in jobs, but the truth is, 8 tax increases and 300 thousand people out of work –- that’s not heading in the right direction," Baker said.
In a thick Boston accent, Independent Tim Cahill stood up for the middle class and the small-business owner.
“I am, at heart, a local politician, and a small business man, that’s where I got my start and I think that in order to change the direction of the state we need to start from the ground floor and work our way up,” Cahill said.
And Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein said that she would be an exception to the status quo.
"I see myself as the one outsider in a race with 3 wonderful insiders all very distinguished gentlemen all representing a Beacon Hill point of view," Stein said. "They all support casinos, they all support charter schools, they all support a corporate tax break economy which is robbing our budget of millions of dollars a year."
The debate also saw the return of a villain that’s been terrorizing Massachusetts public officials for years: The Big Dig. The Associated Press published a memo over the weekend penned by Charlie Baker when he was state budget chief. Although Baker was defending the Big Dig publicly, the memo shows he privately called Big Dig spending “simply amazing” and warned that it would starve other road and bridge projects.
Gov.Patrick seemed to relish the release of the memo.
"We all knew the Big Dig financing plan was flawed from the start. Charlie knew that the big dig financing plan was flawed from the start, and for political reasons, didn’t make that public," Patrick said.
Independent Tim Cahill said that Baker should have been honest with voters.
"I think what people are looking for is for people to be straight when we’re running for office. Not to lie to them. Not to misrepresent. Not to say something privately when it should be said publicly,” Cahill said.
But Baker defended himself, implying the memo wasn't a big deal. "When you write a memo like that to your boss, you write a memo like that to your boss to raise issues and concerns, which is exactly what I did," Baker said, trying to turn the conversation back to Patrick's tenure as governor. "And I come back to the fact that I sure hope somebody is writing a memo like that right now to deal with the two-billion dollar deficit."
The memo in question capped a string of October surprises, starting with the defection of Cahill’s running mate to the Baker camp at the beginning of the month. Polls indicate that the beneficiary of all the drama has been Gov. Patrick, who currently holds a slim lead over Baker. Still, some analysts say that the Republican wave that been sweeping the country could carry Baker to victory.
At this point, the race could break either way. Election Day is Nov. 2nd.
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