CommonWealth Magazine

JIM BRAUDE STARTED Tuesday night is GBH debate among the three Democrats running for lieutenant governor by asking candidates a standard opening question: Why are you running for the office?

But in the case of the state’s lieutenant governor, he actually meant why in the world are you running for this position? It has no prescribed powers other than to serve on the Board of Governors and to chair and assume the role of governor when the state’s highest elected official leaves office or is unable to serve.

The long-term hope of eventually running for governor himself may linger in the back of every LG candidate’s mind, but that’s something no political actor would project. Instead, the three Democrats all pleaded what they could do as right-wing lawmakers under Maura Healey, the presumptive Democratic nominee strong favorite to seize the governor’s office.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll played up her 16 years as a gateway city leader and the recent lieutenant governors’ role as the administration’s primary liaison with local government. State Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow touted the geographical balance he brings as the only candidate from outside I-495, his background in the Legislature, and his previous federal government service in the Obama administration. Acton State MP Tami Gouveia spoke about her background as a social worker with a PhD in public health, noting her interest in pushing an agenda for those on the fringes. “As great as we are and as well-equipped as we are, we still leave too many people behind,” she said of the state.

All three candidates said the state should enforce a 1986 law that would give back up to $3 billion to taxpayers as a result of rising revenues last year. But they all also wanted the legislature to return to session to draft an economic development bill with more targeted tax breaks, which was sidelined by the unexpected news that the tax cap law would be triggered for the first time since 1987.

Their joint position brings all three candidates in line with Healey, who shared a similar sentiment on the Beacon Hill tax talk yesterday.

If there was even a remote moment of tension in the very civilized debate, it was when the candidates were asked what made them different from their competitors.

Driscoll referred to her years in an “executive role” as mayor. “As mayor you have to solve problems for the people every day. It’s a little bit different than in the legislature,” she said. “Believe me – not a small, important role, but very different when you have to do it, not just talk about things.”

Despite her rejection, the insult to the two lawmakers she competes with has not gone unnoticed.

“I would question that premise,” Lesser said. “Because we’ve done a whole lot that has really impacted people’s lives on a daily basis, on a large scale and not isolated to one community or place.”

When asked about the obscure board of governors that must confirm court appointments, only Driscoll claimed she could name all eight of its elected members. (Braude didn’t put her to the test.)

Meet the author

editor-in-chief, Commonwealth

Around Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in the Fall 1999 issue of CommonWealth on outreach youth workers in Boston won a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquecy.

Michael began his journalism career at Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper for Boston’s largest neighborhood, where he covered a variety of city issues. He has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe since the late 1980s. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the City Weekly section of the Boston Sunday Globe.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989 he co-produced The AIDS Quarterly, a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s he worked as a producer for Our Times, a weekly magazine program WHDH- TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Around Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in the Fall 1999 issue of CommonWealth on outreach youth workers in Boston won a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquecy.

Michael began his journalism career at Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper for Boston’s largest neighborhood, where he covered a variety of city issues. He has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe since the late 1980s. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the City Weekly section of the Boston Sunday Globe.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989 he co-produced The AIDS Quarterly, a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s he worked as a producer for Our Times, a weekly magazine program WHDH- TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

When asked which former lieutenant governor was a role model for her service, Gouveia pointed to Evelyn Murphy, who served under Michael Dukakis, while Lesser cited Tim Murray, a former mayor of Worcester who served under Deval Patrick. Driscoll piggybacked the responses and checked the names of both former LGs.

Revisiting a moment of state-political lore, Braude asked Gouevia if Murphy’s role model extended to a famous episode in which Murphy attempted to reframe administrative policy on a state budget issue as acting governor when Dukakis was out of town, which was the infuriated the governor.

“Well, I wouldn’t go that route,” Gouveia said of the brazen power play. “As a social worker, that’s not my style.”

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