Democratic hopefuls for Massachusetts governor have made stops in the Berkshires this week, and they’re all critical of Republican Governor Charlie Baker.
Three Democrats are running so far: Environmentalist Bob Massie, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, and former state Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez. Gonzalez worked under fellow Democrat former Governor Deval Patrick.
Gonzalez toured parts of Berkshire County Tuesday, meeting with state and local elected officials from Pittsfield and Lenox. He says access to early childcare is a need for the region.
“Childcare and preschool is an issue that I care deeply about, and I think is one that could make the biggest difference for kids and families across this state,” Gonzalez says. “We are the most expensive state in the country when it comes to childcare and preschool. The evidence is really clear that kids that have access to it, it is game-changing for them in terms for their success in school and allows their parents to go to work to support their families. This is one area where we are doing virtually nothing. This issue, like many others, Governor Baker is not only not making the progress we need, he’s not even trying.”
Gonzalez says he also has plans for criminal justice reform, reducing gun violence, and campaign finance reform.
“Creative economy is really big for this region. Workforce development is really important here,” Gonzalez says. “There are jobs that are open. We need to make sure the state is providing the type of resources people out here need to be able to have the skills to fill those jobs. Transportation infrastructure is something that I hear a lot about out here; that Berkshire County often feels forgotten and doesn’t get their fair share.”
Gonzalez served as president of CeltiCare Health and launched New Hampshire Healthy Families. He is also the former chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care, the chair of the Board of the Massachusetts Health Connector, and co-chaired the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
“I know the industry. Every additional second I spend in it, the more discouraged I got with it. Our healthcare system is broken. It’s not working for people, not only elderly people but people of all ages. It’s way too complicated. It’s too costly. It’s not providing the quality of care that we need. It is another example of an area where Governor Baker just keeps putting Band-Aids on gaping wounds – and we need leadership,” Gonzalez says.
Massie also met with state and local elected officials in the Pittsfield area as well as environmentalists and community activists Tuesday. He says upgrades to regional transportation and access to broadband still need to be addressed in the Berkshires.
“Then you can have more businesses, internet and other businesses connected to the global economy right out here,” Massie says. “That will attract different kinds of folks, it will bring young people with families. It will slow the demographic transition that is underway. Bringing better regional transportation will help as well. We need to make this state accessible to the Berkshires and the Berkshires accessible to the rest of the state.”
Massie says his focus is strengthening the economy with job-creating initiatives, confronting inequality by defending the rights of working families and promoting racial equity.
“Moving to renewable energy, lowering energy costs. Making it possible for people to live near where jobs are and lowering the cost of public and higher education, which is unbelievably expensive,” Massie says. “And on and on, all of those core structural questions, especially regional transportation, which allow communities to flourish and contact with each other.”
Massie ran for U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2011, but dropped out after eventual winner Elizabeth Warren entered the race. The environmentalist served as executive director of Ceres, the country’s the largest coalition of environmental groups; co-founded the Global Reporting Initiative; and founded and co-chaired the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Coalition. Massie is adamantly opposed to Kinder Morgan’s natural gas pipeline into Western Massachusetts.
“We absolutely do not need more natural gas in this state,” Massie says. “And as for the question of the Housatonic [River] and the continued pollution there, obviously that’s an outrage that has not been adequately been addressed.”
Another Democratic hopeful for governor, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, made stops in North Adams, Williamstown, Pittsfield, Lenox and Great Barrington in August.
Warren has a standing invitation to be interviewed by WAMC News.
Like Gonzalez and Massie, Warren is advocating for a single-payer health care system. Warren also wants to see free public higher education and increased taxation on the rich.
Both Gonzalez and Massie agree the state needs to be a leader in climate change and have similar ideas on how state government could be more transparent. Again, Massie.
“So what I have proposed that as governor, I will move the governor’s office every month for a few days to a different part of the state in order to draw attention to the great assets and also some of the difficulties that we are facing all across the commonwealth,” Massie says.
Gonzalez would continue a Patrick administration practice.
“We would hold cabinet meetings out in Berkshire County,” Gonzalez says.
The Massachusetts GOP could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The Baker administration said Thursday it couldn’t address any campaign decisions by the popular first-term governor. But an aide told WAMC Thursday the governor has not said whether he will run for reelection.