First Democratic mass lieutenant governor debate centers on MBTA and potential relationship with Healey


State Representative Tami Gouveia, State Senator Eric Lesser and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll squared off Tuesday night

The mayor of Salem, Mass. Kim Driscoll, State Senator Eric Lesser and State Rep. Tami Gouveia are vying to be the Democratic nominee for Massachusetts lieutenant governor. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

While it may still feel like the height of summer, the date for the statewide primary election is just over a month away.

On Tuesday evening, the three Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor traveled to GBH for a televised debate. State Representative Tami Gouveia, State Senator Eric Lesser and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll all joined GBH’s Jim Braude in explaining why voters should support them on September 6. Here is a summary of the main themes and topics of the debate.

Working with Healey

One of the first questions in the debate was how the candidates would work with Maura Healey, the Democratic attorney general and favorite to be the state’s next governor. The lieutenant governor candidate who wins the primary will then team up with Healey on the Democratic side of the ticket in November, provided Healey defeats Sonia Chang-Diaz, who has dropped out of the race but technically remains on the ballot.

Lesser said he would leverage his experience working with President Obama at the White House, where he served on the Council of Economic Advisers. The job of the lieutenant governor, he said, is primarily to support the governor, unless it is a matter of high moral consequence.

“Working for President Obama, you work as a team…and you help implement that vision set by the top leader,” he said.

Gouveia stressed the importance of sometimes embracing conflicts and disagreements, in order to dig deep into the “root causes” of problems. The post of lieutenant governor, Gouveia said, is uniquely positioned to give voice to issues that really matter to people. This, she said, is because they will have the ear of the governor to advocate on behalf of what they hear from the public — both on the campaign trail and after.

Driscoll said Healey has previously dismissed the idea of ​​surrounding himself with “yes” and encourages constructive disagreement. It’s an issue she grapples with daily as mayor of Salem.

“I have a senior manager that I work with every day. We do not always agree on all issues. We fight, we have discussions, we make the best decisions for our community, and then we move forward with everyone working together,” Driscoll said.

Shedding light on the Board of Governors

The debate then turned to how each candidate views the Governor’s Council, a somewhat obscure body that provides advice and consent on gubernatorial appointments, pardons and commutations, and terms for the governor. Plublic treasure. The state’s lieutenant governor automatically joins this group and chairs the council.

Gouveia said she was not concerned about the power wielded by the council, which includes the ability to confirm judges. Instead, she said that as president, she would emphasize transparency while ensuring board appointees “reflect the diversity of our state…understand the role of trauma of childhood, that they understand the role of systemic racism and intergenerational poverty”.

Driscoll also stressed the importance of making council activities transparent while ensuring the public knows about them and what they have the power to do. She said she knows how to chair a local government meeting and can use it to start a constructive dialogue in the wider community.

Lesser said that although the council is obscure, it wields immense power. Lesser added that he is “uniquely positioned” to “reinvigorate” the body because of his experience as vice-chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and his work on two Supreme Court appointments under the president. Barack Obama.

Stand out from the crowd

Lesser, Gouveia and Driscoll answered a rather classic, but enlightening question: “what is the main thing that distinguishes you from other candidates?”

Lesser said he was the only one off of I-495, citing where he grew up in Hampden County. He said having a team that reflects the entire state is crucial. Lesser also spoke about his federal experience, saying interaction with the federal government will be key in the near future.

To differentiate herself, Gouveia drew on her 25 years of experience as a social worker in public health and her understanding of collaborative leadership due to her role as a founder of problem-solving organizations. such as opioids and environmental justice.

Driscoll said she stands out because of her experience in a leadership role.

“I’ve been mayor for 16 years, I worked in Chelsea City when it came out of receivership, I had to do the work on the ground. It’s different talking about things as a political leader,” she said.

Problems with the T

A significant portion of the debate focused on an issue that plagues many residents: the sorry state of the MBTA. Numerous security incidents prompted the federal government to get involved earlier this year, and Massachusetts leaders will be tasked with breathing new life into the ailing public transit system.

Driscoll described the MBTA as a “total mess” and said she knows it because Salem has the busiest commuter train stop in the entire system. Driscoll wants to expand public transit like she did in Salem, referencing the city’s on-demand public shuttle, city-owned ferry, and car-sharing program with city vehicles positioned around the city. She concluded by saying that leaders need to better harness innovation to make statewide transit more accessible and better for the environment.

Lesser said Driscoll’s answer didn’t go into enough detail and offered some of his own. He said the T needed to streamline management practices, demand more transparency from T leaders and instill a “culture of safety”. Lesser said it wasn’t about money, it was more about culture and management. The way to improve this, he said, is to “get in the weeds” and streamline the reporting structure while ensuring mistakes have real consequences.

Gouveia said poor management and a lack of good investments have contributed to the T’s decline. This could be eased by passing the Fair Share Amendment, also known as the Millionaire’s Tax.

“If we make the investments to make it reliable, to make it accessible to every person in our state, not just the T but transportation in general. This is why I support the fair share amendment,” Gouveia said.


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