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Gubernatorial candidates meet with Boston clergy

October 20, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Candidates in the closely contested race for governor stopped at an inner-city church Monday to share their policies on issues critical to Boston and other urban centers in Massachusetts with large and potentially decisive voting blocs.

Democrat Martha Coakley, Republican Charlie Baker and independent Evan Falchuk met separately in private with members of the Black Ministerial Alliance, an influential group of minority religious leaders, at the Twelfth Baptist Church in the Roxbury neighborhood.

Baker, who was also the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, has been stepping up his campaign’s outreach to voters in liberal-leaning cities. Monday’s visit came about a week after he formally outlined an “urban agenda,” which included proposals for lifting state caps on charter schools, increasing the earned income tax credit and assuring that minority-owned contractors had equal access to bidding on public works projects.

Incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat who isn’t seeking re-election, outpolled Baker by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in Boston four years ago and by similarly wide margins in many smaller cities. Narrowing the gap with urban and minority voters in the race against Coakley could be critical to Baker’s chances on Nov. 4.

“Many folks in this community have had a chance to get to know me over the past year, and I’ve had a chance to get to know them,” Baker told reporters after meeting with the ministers.

“I think many of our proposals with respect to economic development and educational excellence and community building are quite consistent with what the folks in this community would like to see happen,” he added.

Patrick, who joined Coakley during Monday’s meeting, credited Baker for campaigning extensively in Boston neighborhoods, but added: “Showing up is one thing. Governing on behalf of them is a different thing.”

“I don’t support what feels to me like real cynicism in asking for people’s votes but then offering policies that are very much against their interests,” said Patrick.

The governor, who is strongly backing Coakley, cited Baker’s pledge to cut taxes — which he warned could cut into revenue available for important social programs — and the Republican’s hesitancy to embrace Coakley’s $150 million plan for eliminating a waiting list of 17,000 children seeking state vouchers for prekindergarten programs.

Baker has said that while he supports targeted investments in early childhood education, the focus should be on strong public schools so children don’t lose any early advantage as they move to higher grades.

Coakley noted that 1,000 Boston children are on waiting lists for early education programs and that her proposal would give low-income families the same access to early education as those in wealthier suburbs.

“I support it. I’ve always supported it,” Coakley said. “My Republican opponent says, ‘Eh, I don’t know if it’s effective.’”

Falchuk is running under the banner of the United Independent Party and said his campaign is about creating new political leadership that will better represent ordinary voters.

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