Dem Governor Candidates Hoping To Get Noticed, And What Mass. Has Riding On MGM

Aug 20, 2018

It's crunch time for Massachusetts candidates -- many of whom are just hoping voters know they exist.

We chatted last week about Governor Charlie Baker's shift to campaign mode and the many millions of campaign dollars he's raised. Let's focus now on the Democrats -- Bob Massie and Jay Gonzalez. How are they differentiating themselves ahead of the September 4 primary?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Well, certainly, compared to the governor, they're at a significant [financial] disadvantage. But with the help of public financing, Jay Gonzalez has amassed some money that allowed him to put his campaign on more stable footing. Massie is still struggling a bit.

And as they come down the home stretch, they're really trying to find an inroad to differentiate themselves from one another. There was a debate last week [and] there is another face-to-face meeting on the calendar for them that will be important. One thing to note: no major prime-time televised debates this cycle during the Democratic primary, which is hurting these candidates, who don't have a lot of name recognition.

On the issues, they're very similar. But in terms of style, Bob Massie -- entrepreneur, environmentalist, has done a million things in his career -- [is] trying to cast himself as the outsider on Beacon Hill, who can bring change state government. And on the flip-side, [Massie is] trying to [paint] Jay Gonzalez, who worked for Governor Deval Patrick [and] who's run a health insurance company, as the insider. But Jay is trying to use that to his advantage, saying he knows how to get things done, [that] it doesn't matter if you have all these plans [if you] can't work with the legislature and accomplish those for the voters. And that's where Jay says his strengths are.

Sam Hudzik, NEPR: So that's sort of like theme and style. Is there anything that they've been able to differentiate themselves when it comes to the issues, or are these guys pretty closely aligned?

They are very closely aligned. If you're talking small-bore, you can look at the debate last week. Jay Gonzalez said he thought that it would be a good idea to pursue something like a congestion tolling plan on the Massachusetts Turnpike just to see if it works to help reduce traffic. Bob Massie said he doesn't think that's a good idea.

This, of course, a proposal [that] was in the budget [and] the governor vetoed it just last month. But if you're talking big-picture stuff, they both feel like the state needs to invest more in education, in the environment and clean energy and in infrastructure. And in order to do that, both are talking about raising taxes or finding ways to generate new revenue with less than specific plans to do so.

OK, let's turn to another race on the Democratic ballot -- for secretary of the commonwealth. Bill Galvin has had that office since 1995 and he's got a real challenge this year from Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor who won the party's endorsement. They're really going after each other. What are the big issues there?

They really are, unlike the governor's race which [has been] largely fairly cordial. These two men really don't like each other and it's coming through in these final weeks. Secretary Galvin [is] trying to run on experience, saying that in these times when elections are under threat from hacking [and] foreign interference, you need someone with the experience that he has over the past 24 years running this office -- to ensure the security of elections and to continue the work of his office that he's been doing.

On the flip side, you have Josh Zakim, a young upstart. He says that Bill Galvin has been an impediment to change in that office. He blames the secretary -- rightly or wrongly -- for the fact that Massachusetts doesn't have early voting for the primaries this year [and] that same day registration still doesn't exist in Massachusetts. And he says he can get these things done.

It's a big week for western Mass. On Friday, MGM opens up its nearly billion-dollar casino in Springfield. We're going to have a bunch of reporting this week on issues related to the casino: the promised jobs, entertainment plans and what officials are doing about compulsive gambling. But I want to talk to you about what the state has at stake here. A slots parlor opened a few years ago in Plainville, but this is the first so-called resort casino in Massachusetts.

It is the first resort casino, and this is really a big deal this week, to see the doors finally open on one of these resorts. Governor Deval Patrick, who was in office at the time; Speaker DeLeo, who happens to still be here; and Senate leadership under Terry Murray got this done in 2011. It's been seven long years waiting to see their plans come to fruition.

Like you said, the law that allowed this to happen came with big promises of jobs in regions like Springfield that needed an economic boost [and] new state tax dollars.

There is no shortage of priorities that lawmakers appear on Beacon Hill would like to spend additional revenue for. And this is something that they don't have to go to the taxpayers and ask for. This is something they've already voted on and they're hoping that this can start to generate some big money -- much more than slot parlor in Plainville. And you have the Everett casino hopefully coming online next summer.

So this is a big test as other states are also gearing up to add some more competition in Massachusetts. Connecticut [is] looking to make inroads. And it's a new day in Massachusetts with expanded gambling and all the good and potentially bad that comes with it.

Take a look at our Massachusetts Primary Voter Guide

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Disclosure: MGM has purchased underwriting from New England Public Radio publicizing the company's non-gambling activities. The NEPR newsroom operates independently of the station's development department, and editorial decisions are made without regard to any funding relationships.