Saturday, April 22, 2006

First gubenatorial debate

The Democratic candidates for governor had their first debate yesterday. It will be broadcast on channel 4 Sunday morning at 8:30. I may watch it, if I remember to set the DVR to tape it. In any event, moderator Jon Keller shared his impressions in a long post on his blog, outlining what he found to be the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three candidates.

At this point, I'm undecided between Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli. I would not vote for Tom Reilly in the primary under any circumstance, and would have to think hard about supporting him if he won the nomination (the only other possibility would be independent Christy Mihos. Kerry Healey is not an option).

Keller on Patrick:
It's a matter of taste, of course, but I find him an impressive presence on TV, thoughtful and articulate. When they were talking about gas taxes, he wryly needled Gabrieli about his gas-guzzling campaign RV. And the best part about Patrick: he's a man of conviction. He was willing to endorse licensing illegals to drive, even though he has to know how toxic that position will be in some circles. He flatly rejects the income-tax rollback as "fiscally irresponsible," while Gabrieli tries to have it both ways, saying he wants to do it but might not be able to. And he has the guts to stand up for Cape Wind at a time when every other politicians in sight is running for cover. To primary voters sick and tired of waffling, spineless pols, Patrick's boldness continues to be his strong suit....

As for Patrick, his biggest strength is also his most profound potential weakness. Giving drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, defending the use of race as a layoff criteria on legalistic grounds, dismissing the voters' demand for a five percent tax rate as "irresponsible" -- these are all defensible positions, even principled in a way. But they're also ultra-liberal. And maybe I'm just getting old, but I can't seem to recall the last time an ultra-liberal Democratic candidate for governor got to pass "go."
And his thoughts on Gabrieli:
He flashed some humor, was specific without getting too bogged down in jargon, and gave largely sensible answers. He staked his claim to the center by touting his support of charter schools and refusing to endorse drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. Money quote: "We have to be very careful and making it very clear to people as Democrats we are not in favor of illegal behavior.... Citizenship should mean something." Gabrieli floated above the Reilly-Patrick fray, and his rebuttal to Reilly's point that even Bush and Cheney have released their tax returns was clever: "That won't be the only place I'll end up disagreeing with Dick Cheney and George Bush."....

Gabrieli also has a problem that the debate exposes. He's too cute by half. He's all for the income tax rollback to five percent, but maybe not right away, and if you listen closely to his pitch, maybe not at all. He likes the wind farm project, but supports Ted Kennedy's backroom move to kill it by letting Gov. Romney veto it. In response to a question about willingness to use race as the sole criteria in an employee layoff decision, Gabrieli appeared to say both yes, he would, and no, he wouldn't, according to my transcription, but that may have just been confused syntax. I'm sure the Gabrieli people will say this is all just Chris being thoughtful and avoiding simplistic sound bites, but it sure smells like waffling to me, and I bet it will to others.

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