The Hiller Instinct: Debate Winner
There were two debates: one with all five candidates, the other between the frontrunners.
The minor candidates struggled to be heard:
Carla Howell, (L) Gubernatorial candidate
"I'm the only tax cutter in this race."
"What we need is to run Massachusetts not like a business, but like a democracy."
Jill Stein, (G) Gubernatorial candidate
Barbara Johnson, (I) Gubernatorial candidate
"Our government is out of control."
But that was the sideshow. The main event was Romney and O'Brien, punching and counter-punching:
Shannon O'Brien, (D) Gubernatorial candidate
"Mitt Romney has spent millions of dollars distorting my record. As a matter of fact, there's one candidate running for governor this years who's actually proposing new taxes, and it's Mitt Romney."
Mitt Romney, (R) Gubernatorial candidate
"A leopard doesn't change its spots. Shannon O'Brien has been on Beacon Hill for twelve years...you know what you get. She's voted for an increase in the income tax, in the sales tax, in the excise tax, in the gas tax.
The crucial moment came when Romney made this accusation:
"You lobbied for and got a $45,000 pay increase. Is that right or wrong?
"That's wrong. I did not raise my own…"
"You lobbied for a salary increase and took a salary increase of $45,000. Is there something I've said that's wrong there?"
"The fact is it's the legislature and the governor. It's statute that established the salaries of all for all constitutional officers.
After the debate, an admission:
"I have already stated to you that I sent a letter to the legislature. I did state that I felt that a pay raise was appropriate for all constitutional officers..."
Andy Hiller, Political editor
"You might not like the word lobby, but that will be seen publicly as lobbying."
"I was not disputing the word lobby."
"Of course the claim was accurate. She lobbied for a pay raise for herself and she took it."
O'Brien's 1999 letter supporting her pay raise isn't news, but her refusal to answer Romney's question about lobbying is. "Lobbying" means "influencing", and her letter was surely aimed at that. By linking O'Brien to lobbying, Romney reinforces his message that she's a Beacon Hill insider, incapable of reforming the State House.
That makes O'Brien the loser of this debate...and Romney, the winner.