The Democratic Party’s five gubernatorial candidates fielded questions from students and discussed campaign details at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics Tuesday night, with all candidates focusing on education reform and mental health issues.
The candidates, who include Joseph Avellone, Donald M. Berwick ’68, Juliette N. Kayyem ’91, and two current state officials—Massachusetts Attorney General Martha M. Coakley and State Treasurer Steven Grossman—opened the forum with brief presentations on their respective campaign platforms before moving on to answer questions regarding mental health and education reform.
Each candidate said that mental health is a priority in their campaign, with Berwick vowing that if elected, he would implement policies that would cut drug abuse and suicide rates in half in the next 10 years.
Coakley said that she thinks it is important to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental and behavioral health issues, discussing the story of her brother, who refused to see a specialist about symptoms of bipolar disorder and later committed suicide.
“We’ve made it a shame, a weakness to be mentally ill,” she said. “We have to encourage our vets to get help with [post-traumatic stress disorder]. We’ve seen the results of failing to do that…. I believe MA is the state that should do it. We have the biopharmaceutical industry here; we have the best doctor’s here. It’s time to end that stigma.”
Candidates also shared plans of action to improve the school system.
“My two goals for education are to close the achievement gap...and [make] sure every student is career- and college-ready.” Avellone said. “We know [pre-kindergarten] works, and we know we can get a much higher literacy rate by the third grade. This package is my highest priority and will be funded as my first priority.”
“I think student participation defined the evening,” said Daniel R. Ki ’15, president of the Harvard College Democrats and moderator for the evening’s forum. The Harvard College Democrats co-sponsored the event.
The forum concluded with students collecting information about getting involved in the campaigns. The candidates will continue their campaigns with local caucuses this weekend.
—Staff writer Conor J. Reilley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
—Staff writer Zohra D. Yaqhubi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @zohradyaqhubi.