AG candidates joust over guns and gaming in Dem debate

Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

NEEDHAM, AUG. 21, 2014…. The two Democratic candidates hoping to be the state’s next attorney general scrapped over online gaming, the Market Basket crisis, and gun safety in a televised debate on Thursday.

Maura Healey, a former prosecutor, is facing off against Warren Tolman, a former state lawmaker. Healey highlighted her work in Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office on foreclosure and gay marriage cases, and Tolman pointed to his time as an anti-tobacco legislator on Beacon Hill taking on “special interests.”

The two faced off inside the studios of WCVB-TV as part of “On The Record,” a political chat show that airs on Sundays at 11 a.m.

Republican John Miller, a Winchester attorney, will face the winner of the Sept. 9 Democratic primary in November.

Offered the chance to ask Healey a question, Tolman said the attorney general’s office could issue regulations requiring “smart gun” technology, such as finger-print identification, and accused Healey of leaving the issue to the Legislature.

Healey said she agreed with Tolman on the technology for guns “made going forward,” but more needs to be done, such as enforcement of the gun law legislators passed last month. “Because we need to deal with the fact that there are 300 million guns out there right now in existence, many of them owned illegally, and that’s why I’m such a supporter of a much more comprehensive solution,” she said.

“I agree and I have a comprehensive approach on my website,” Tolman said. “But this is something that the attorney general of Massachusetts can unilaterally push.”

Tolman touted the support of former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, while Healey said she had the backing of Dr. Jack McDevitt, who chaired a task force on gun violence that led to the new gun law.

Healey, in her question to Tolman, raised Tolman’s past involvement with a company focused on online gaming for young people. “And I realize that you say you’re not associated with that anymore,” she said. “But I’m just wondering and curious: what were you thinking getting involved with that company in the first place?”

Tolman pushed back. “This was a company that was going to work with state lotteries across the United States; it never got off the ground,” he said.

Tolman pointed again to the support from Harshbarger, an opponent of gambling. “I want to ban ATMs on casino premises. I want to make sure that there’s no instances of public corruption as we’ve seen throughout the United States when this industry comes to town,” he said.

Healey said she’s “anti-casino” while Tolman has been “pro-casino,” while the two sparred on gaming.

“I understand it was to benefit state lotteries but I can think of a lot better ways to make money for the state than on the backs of young people,” Healey said, referring to the online gaming company.

“The voters of Massachusetts deserve better than this, Maura,” Tolman said. “We haven’t talked about sexual assaults on college campuses or the opiate scourge. Those are the issues that people want to hear about that we ought to be talking about.”

The two candidates were also asked about the ongoing saga at the Market Basket, which is at the center of a disagreement among family members battling over ownership of the supermarket chain, a walkout by employees and a boycott by some customers.

“You don’t need to look for specific statutory authority,” Tolman said. “You can lead here. And we have an obligation.”

Healey appeared to go further than in a “Greater Boston” debate on WGBH last week, when she said she supports the workers and would work to enforce laws.

“And certainly as attorney general, I’ll be the first to pick up the phone,” Healey said during the WCVB debate. “That’s what you do.”

When “On The Record” co-host Janet Wu asked Healey if she would get involved in negotiations quietly, Healey said, “Whatever it takes, it’s what we’ve got to do.”

“That’s not what you said before, Maura,” Tolman said.

“That’s not what you said I said. That is not actually true,” Healey responded. “But here’s the point. You’ve got to lead on this issue, absolutely, but you also got to be there to use the law, and that’s why I think it’s really important what the attorney general’s done in terms of setting up, right now, real-time, a way for attorneys and their families to come forward. You’ve got to do both.”

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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