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Mass. governor hopefuls debate anti-crime agenda


The four candidates for Massachusetts governor said Friday they would adopt different strategies to help stem gun violence and street crime in the wake of the shooting of five people last month in Boston.

Republican Charles Baker said during the debate at Emerson College that the state should agree to a federal program that would run the names of violent individuals through a national database to check their immigration status, and deport those here illegally.

Baker also said that the state should require anyone who enters a courtroom to witness a trial to sign in so authorities can check for outstanding warrants against them. He said that would help discourage the intimidation of witnesses and jurors by gang members.

“This is a fight and we need to treat it like a fight,” Baker said.

Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick said the focus should be on the schools. He said Massachusetts needs to seriously look at lengthening both the school day and the school year as a way to offer young people a positive alternative to gang activity.

“We have a calendar that’s based on farming. You get out in time to plant. You stay out long enough to harvest,” he said. “That’s not our economy anymore.”

Patrick said extending school hours would also give students a chance to be in the company of responsible adults.

Independent candidate Timothy Cahill said he would devote state funds to deploy more police and youth workers in neighborhoods with the toughest crime problems. He said he would fight for adequate funding of after-school and dropout prevention programs.

Cahill said parents and other responsible adults must play a role, as do jobs for inner-city youth.

“I could have gone a couple of different ways where I grew up, but my parents were really on top of me to make sure I stayed in school,” Cahill said.

Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein said the state’s high-stakes Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test is one reason students drop out of school and get involved with gangs and other illegal activity.

The comments come weeks after the Sept. 28 shooting of five people in the city’s Mattapan neighborhood. Four died, including a 2-year-old boy. A Boston man has been charged in connection with the shooting and ordered held on $500,000 bail.

During the debate, Cahill was asked about Attorney General Martha Coakley’s request that the state lottery, which Cahill oversees as state treasurer, stop running ads until after the Nov. 2 election. Coakley’s office is investigating allegations of improper coordination between lottery staffers and Cahill’s campaign on the timing of lottery advertisements.

“We’re cooperating,” Cahill said.

At the end of the debate, which also touched on alternative energy, in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students and the state’s struggling economy, the four were asked which living politician they would most like to be.

Cahill named the first President Bush, saying he was able to work across party lines for the good of the country even at the cost of a second term, while Patrick named New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying he stood up for the principle of religious freedom during the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site.

Baker named former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, saying he showed grit and determination in reviving that city at a time when critics said it was ungovernable. Stein chose Mel King, a longtime community organizer in Boston who came close to being elected the city’s first black mayor in 1983.

The debate was sponsored by the Boston Herald, Emerson College and WFXT-TV.

Associated Press