Executive office hopefuls make pitches at forum

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  • Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor and governor participating in a forum at Northampton High School take a photo on stage before the start of the program on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. From left are Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), business educator Bret Bero, state Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and state Rep. Tami Gouveia (D-Acton). Participating in the forum but not pictured is state Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow). Chang-Diaz was the only gubernatorial candidate participating in the forum. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) answers a question during a forum held for candidates for lieutenant governor and governor at Northampton High School Tuesday, April 12, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A panel consisting of WHMP radio host Bill Newman, left, New England Public Media senior reporter and Smith College professor Nancy Cohen and Dan Crowley, executive editor of The Greenfield Recorder and Daily Hampshire Gazette pose questions to candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in a forum held at Northampton High School auditorium on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, represents the 1st Hampden and Hampshire District, which includes the towns of Belchertown and Granby. Taken at the studios of WGBY in Springfield on Friday, March 9, 2018. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 4/13/2022 3:46:05 PM
Modified: 4/13/2022 3:44:56 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As Democrats look to solidify their control of state government in November, most of the party’s candidates for governor and lieutenant governor made an appearance at a candidates forum Tuesday.

Among the candidates for governor, there was one large absence. State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, D-Boston, was the only gubernatorial candidate to participate in the event. Attorney General Maura Healey’s campaign said she had a scheduling conflict and could not attend, event organizers said.

The Northampton Democratic City Committee and Northampton Open Media hosted the event at Northampton High School, where around 100 people gathered to watch.

The candidates for lieutenant governor who showed up Tuesday were: Bret Bero, a business educator and the former owner of ECHO Industries in Orange; Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll; state Rep. Tami Gouveia, D-Acton; state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield; and state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow.

Former Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins moderated the forum, with questions coming from a panel of three local journalists: New England Public Media senior reporter Nancy Cohen, The Greenfield Recorder and Daily Hampshire Gazette Executive Editor Dan Crowley, and WHMP radio host Bill Newman.

Chang-Díaz, a 13-year lawmaker, was first up on stage. She outlined her progressive agenda, such as her support of universal early education and child care, debt-free public college, boosting education funding and expanding public transit.

“Every day it is getting harder and harder for families to live in our state,” she said. She added that too many people in state government and the Democratic Party “are more concerned with holding onto power rather than doing something with it ... And it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Highlighting her efforts to pass the landmark education funding bill known as the Student Opportunity Act in 2019, Chang-Díaz said that as governor she would veto any budget that didn’t live up to that act’s funding schedule or adequately reimburse local districts for students who leave to attend charter schools. She said she has fought for big change, including criminal justice reform, the state’s new police accountability law and transgender equal rights.

“I am tired of those things being the exception rather than the rule,” she said, adding that the state should lead on voting rights, health equity, building public transit, closing the racial wealth divide and solving the affordable housing crisis. “This world is within reach — don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t.”

Lieutenant governor

Up next on the stage were the five lieutenant governor candidates, giving opening statements.

Gouveia highlighted her experience as a single parent, lawmaker and public health social worker, vowing to put the well-being and dignity of residents at the center of decision making.

Bero mentioned his past as a small business owner in Orange, highlighting the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought to small companies and saying that the lieutenant governor should have experience addressing those issues.

Driscoll said that working in municipal government and being mayor made her aware of the prices people pay when leaders fail, and that she wants to be a good state partner to municipalities if elected.

Lesser told the story of being in high school and feeling upset when teachers were laid off because of budget cuts made in the capital, saying he was running to reinvigorate western Massachusetts communities.

And Hinds spoke of growing up in western Massachusetts and moving back after working for the United Nations, vowing to be a champion for the region and equity if elected to the role.

In a question that elicited detailed responses from the candidates about what they hoped to do in the role of lieutenant governor, Cohen noted that the office is vaguely defined and that the state has managed fine during moments when the lieutenant governor position went unfilled. She asked how the candidates intended to fill the role.

Hinds said that in ambiguity there’s opportunity, promising to use his experience in conflict negotiation in the Middle East in the role. He said he would use the Cabinet and the lieutenant governor’s role chairing the Massachusetts Governor’s Council to promote racial equity and criminal justice reform.

Driscoll said that as mayor she has been on the front lines of housing, COVID recovery, climate change, public education and more. She said the lieutenant governor’s role is to work closely with cities and towns, and that she planned to be a solid partner working hand-in-hand with municipalities.

Bero said that being out in communities, the lieutenant governor can get to know the issues that are important to them and promote those at the state level. He also said that he sees an “economic storm” brewing and that it’s important to have somebody who knows what it takes to help small businesses succeed.

Gouveia said she would form five working groups to tackle the issues of COVID response and recovery, housing, mental health, climate change and education, and that on the Governor’s Council she would appoint judges and parole board members who understand intergenerational poverty, racism and childhood trauma.

Lesser said the lieutenant governor’s job is to be “the right partner to our next governor,” and that his set of skills will help him do that. He said his federal experience in the Obama administration would help him work with federal partners.

Voters will head to the polls on Sept. 6 to choose Democratic and Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor, as well as attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and the state Legislature.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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