GOP Gubernatorial Hopefuls Split on Climate Change

BOSTON, Mass.—You would be forgiven for thinking GOP gubernatorial candidates Charlie Baker and Mark Fisher agree on a lot of things about government. In debates, the two are often on the same page over job growth and tax issues.

But as Baker, the party’s 2010 hopeful, fends off attacks from the Democratic party of Governor Deval Patrick over comments he made about climate change during that race, he is beginning to look like a rank environmentalist next to Fisher, the Tea Party outsider.

“I think climate change is a wonderful thing. I just celebrated the climate change from spring to summer,” Fisher joked to a small crowd gathered at District Hall in Boston’s Seaport District Monday, June 2 for a debate between the two Republicans.

Fisher, who lost the GOP nod to appear on September’s ballot to Baker earlier this year, styled himself a climate change denier during the debate hosted by A Better City, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and Commonwealth Magazine.

“The science just isn’t there,” Fisher said of the overwhelming scientific consensus the climate is changing due, in large part, to human action.

After Democrats accused him of holding similar views in 2010, Baker told the crowd at District Hall that climate change is real and that there are ways to combat it that go along with with smart economic growth in the energy-efficiency industry.

“I think it’s obvious that the climate is changing,” he said. “There’s data out there to support that. And I certainly think the rising carbon dioxide is a man-made … activity that plays a role in all of this.”

Some argue that represents a change of tone for the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, who has caught flack from Democrats over his past comments on the issue.

“In 2010, Republican Charlie Baker refused to acknowledge the reality of climate change, claiming he’s ‘absolutely not smart enough’ to know,” Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Tom McGee said in a statement in January that appeared on BostInno.com. “Charlie’s had four years to study climate change, so we deserve to know where he stands.”

Instead of dodging the issue, Baker used the Seaport backdrop of Monday’s debate, with its shining new buildings and construction cranes, to frame an acknowledgment of climate change in his economic-development message. He pointed out companies in the district that help businesses operate more efficiently.

On other issues, Baker and Fisher tended to see eye-to-eye, with Baker using his experience to call out possible solutions to the Commonwealth’s problems and Fisher igniting small parts of the crowd with fiery Tea Party rhetoric.

“If we continue down the same path, we will no longer be Massachusetts, we will be Detroitachusetts,” Fisher said in one of his trademark sound bites, referring to a tax code and regulatory structure that, in his mind, are making the Commonwealth unfriendly to business.

The two also agreed the controversial proposal to repeal the State’s ban on casinos should go to voters, though they differed on the voting manner.

Fisher said he would repeal the law, while Baker said he has not decided. “I haven’t made my decision on that one yet,” he said. “I’m still chewing on that. But I do think it belongs before the voters.”

Despite losing out to Baker for the GOP nomination in March, Fisher continues to make himself heard. In May, Fisher claimed members of the Party had offered him money to drop out of the race – a claim those members deny. Earlier this year, the Party claimed Fisher asked for $1 million to drop a lawsuit challenging Baker’s endorsement. The {arty later agreed to put him on the ballot, and Fisher told the Associated Press after Monday’s debate that he is considering dropping the suit.

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