Hiller Instinct: Massachusetts gubernatorial debate

All five gubernatorial candidates were on the stage, and it may be their last time together, too…as future debate sponsors plan to let Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker go at it head-to-head.

The candidates got into it quickly over the state’s troubled Department of Children and Families, DCF, which had at least three children under its supervision die this year:

“I have come up with a plan to fix DCF,” Martha Coakley said.  “I’m the only one here who’s done it. Charlie was Secretary of Health and Human Services and one year reverted $2 million when he could have been working to make kids safe.”

Baker responded, saying, “The Child Welfare League of America–which is the organization the governor brought in to do an analysis–actually gave us awards back during that period for the work we did and I’m proud of it.”

“I think we’ve been following liberal policies for a very long time that inherently cause trouble in the management process,” independent candidate Scott Lively said.

“As a voter I want to see a different approach–that’s honest and levels with voters and treats them as adults,” Evan Falchuk said.

“There’s so much we can do if we just break the status quo and we’re not doing it right now.  That’s why we need an independent voice, ” Jeff McCormick said.

The debate’s most dramatic moment was a tough question from Coakley to Baker.

“How is it and what do you say to people when you successfully turned around Harvard Pilgrim, but you let 3,500 seniors off; you tripled premiums costs and you tripled your salary?” asked Coakley.

Baker: “If Harvard Pilgrim had gone down, thousands of people in Massachusetts would have lost their jobs.”

Coakley: “And in a non-profit your salary went from over $600,000 to 1.7 million…”

Baker: “My salary was set by the board.  It was completely consistent with salaries overall.

So how did they do? Who won? And who lost?

I think Martha Coakley won. Her challenge was to connect with voters, and show some passion, and she did! Plus, she was aggressive.

Jeff McCormick, Scott Lively, and Evan Falchuk were winners, too. Give them “being there” awards, and when you’re an independent candidate trying to be recognized–that’s something.

Which leaves Charlie Baker…as the loser.

Before the debate, Baker said he wanted to lay out his positive vision for Massachusetts and start his final, big push.  He didn’t do either.

But before this debate changes any votes, there will be more.

And, four weeks from tonight, we’ll know who won the election.