With just over a week to go before election day, the candidates vying to be second in command to the state’s highest office sparred mostly over their positions in relation to the person who holds the highest office in the land.
Similar to what the duties of the office call for, both Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidates Republican Karyn Polito and Democrat Quentin Palfrey stood in as proxies for their ticket mates — Gov. Charlie Baker and Jay Gonzalez — defending broadsides from the other on issues like gun control, partisan politics, transportation and LGBT rights.
Taking a page from Gonzalez, Palfrey repeatedly hammered Polito and Baker for their commitment to supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate state Rep. Geoff Diehl — a prominent Trump supporter — who he alluded to in response to question on gun control in the wake of Saturday’s deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synagogue.
"I think that in the era of Trump, it is really important for Massachusetts to lead on fighting back against the Trump administration and the NRA. I think saying that we should replace Elizabeth Warren with Donald Trump’s chairman, who is a pro-NRA voice, on the national level is pointing us in the wrong direction,” Palfrey said.
Polito countered that the administration has strong record on gun control and touted her support for the assault weapons ban and the recent signing of a so-called red-flag law that calls for the temporary removal of firearms if a person is deemed a danger to themselves or others. She added that the Baker administration have failing grades from both National Rifle Association and its local affiliate and touted campaign support from Everytown USA, a prominent gun control group.
Challenged on how she and Baker square their support for Diehl with his support of Trump, Polito echoed her running mate, explaining that she did not vote for the president for a number of reasons including temperament.
“Certainly, his words over the course of this weekend were not helpful and in many other instances we can point to are more device then they are unifying,” Polito said.
Pushed further on the question, she added, “ I think there’s polarization on the national level both on the extreme right and the extreme left, which is why in Massachusetts a lot of people say to us ‘I feel like we’re living in a bubble here in Massachusetts because of the tone and civility — that we're working across party lines, working to get things done — is evident here.”
Palfrey, a former Obama administration official, was not convinced. “You can’t both be against trump and want to replace Elizabeth Warren,” he said.
The lieutenant governor serves as a fill in for governor in the case of absence or death. They also serve as chair of the Governor’s Council, who vote on the appointment of judges made by the governor.
Pushed on the viability of his ticket’s plan to raise taxes in order to raise revenue for education and transportation needs, Palfrey knocked the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, suggesting its decision to knock down a proposed constitutional amendment was because of its partisan leanings.
“I think it’s very important that we have judges on the courts who reflect the diversity of the state and understand the challenges of ordinary people,” said Palfrey. “I think the court is moving rightward.”
“First of all, we need to be honest with the taxpayers and have a responsible plan to how we’re going to meet the spending and demand of the electorate and the residents who live here,” Polito said.
A Suffolk University poll out Monday showed Baker with a 39-point lead (65 percent to 26 percent) over Gonzalez, just over a week out from the statewide election.