Governor Deval Patrick took some of his most direct shots at Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker today, accusing the former president of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of doing nothing to stop dramatic increases in health care costs for small businesses and families.
“Every time there is a hard decision, every time something has to be done with some urgency, putting something on the line for regular people, the challengers – and he’s one of them – are missing in action,” the governor told reporters after testifying in support of a bill he filed to curb health care costs. “And he’s missing in action today.”
Patrick’s foray into overt gubernatorial politicking was significant because he usually passes up the opportunity to directly engage his challengers in the race, particularly when he is at the State House, discussing issues. Patrick's comments came on the same day that a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters showed Patrick in a tight race with Baker.
The Baker campaign said Baker was not available but an aide responded by sending an e-mail that portrayed the governor’s comments as a “temper tantrum.”
“The governor had three and a half years to take action on health care costs, but he didn’t,” Baker’s campaign manager, Lenny Alcivar, said in the e-mail. “For three and a half years, Deval Patrick had the existing authority to do something, anything to address this problem, and he wouldn’t. Today, hours after waking up to polling results that show his re-election prospects dwindling by the minute, Governor Patrick was forced to testify on a proposal aimed more toward salvaging his political career than helping small businesses in Massachusetts.”
Patrick was speaking out just after testifying in support of a bill he filed that would allow state regulators to reject "unreasonable or excessive" cost increases from hospitals and other health care providers. Patrick says the increases are hurting small businesses that want to hire new workers and stay afloat in a tough economy. “While we’ve been dealing with this crisis, at least one of the candidates in this race has been in the middle of this industry and hasn’t offered any solutions yet,” the governor said, again taking aim at Baker.
The Rasmussen Reports survey showed Patrick earning 35 percent of the vote, compared with 32 percent for Baker, and 19 percent for independent state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. A Rassmussen survey in November showed Patrick at 33 percent, with Baker at 28 percent and Cahill at 25 percent.
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