Chris Doughty Continues Elect North Central Candidate Forum Series

FITCHBURG — The Elect North Central Coalition gubernatorial candidate forum series continued on Wednesday, June 29 with a visit from Republican hopeful Chris Doughty.

Doughty, a resident of Wrentham, is an entrepreneur who oversaw the expansion of Capstan Industries into, in its heyday, a multinational manufacturer of metal parts for automobiles and machinery. He retired in December 2021 to run for governor.

“My intention is to make our state prosperous,” Doughty said. “I started to feel over time that our state was just struggling to retain and keep businesses here, including the ones I networked with, and so [I] decided to run for governor.

Doughty has been married to his wife Leslie for 34 years. They have six children and four grandchildren.

Doughty takes on former state Rep. Geoff Diehl in the Sept. 6 gubernatorial primary. Republican Governor Charlie Baker is not seeking re-election, stepping down after two terms.

During the forum, held at the studios of Fitchburg Access Television, moderator Kevin Cormier (of the TV show “Fitchburg-Leominster All Politics”) asked Doughty how he sees himself politically – a “Republican in big tent” like Baker or a “right-wing” Republican like former President Donald Trump, who backed Diehl.

Doughty said he would prefer to use the terms “common sense, practical, business-minded, performance-oriented, goal-oriented and problem-solver and maybe a bit of a leader, visionary leader.”

Here are Doughty’s responses to some of the questions posed by Cormier and members of the Elect North Central Coalition during Tuesday night’s forum:

Taxes and inflation

Asked what the state could do to help local families facing the highest rate of inflation in 40 years, Doughty said he supports a decision implemented by other states and proposed by Baker – a suspension of the gasoline tax of 24 cents per gallon.

“It’s small, but it helps,” Doughty said. “That could cover $20 to $100 a month. This is just one example of the kinds of things other governors are doing to reduce the cost of living in their state.

As for how he would, if elected governor, enforce lowering prices with a gas tax suspension, Doughty said, “Once a cost goes away, if you don’t lower your prices with your competitors, you lose your customers, and so the free market will work.

According to Doughty, the state must also take care of other areas where prices are high.

“We have to deal with utilities, the cost of housing, transportation, medical care,” he said. “We’re the best in almost all of those categories, so it’s not just a silver bullet. We need to work on many categories to bring down the cost of living here.

One way to cut utility costs, Doughty said, is to bring more natural gas to Massachusetts. He blamed Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey for filing lawsuits to block gas pipelines from entering the state. (He referred to his title, not by name, during the forum, but used both in a follow-up press release on Thursday, June 30.)

“As a result, we have to bring in frozen natural gas from foreign countries and big tankers, and then we thaw it and put it in the pipelines,” Doughty said. “Because of that, we have to buy natural gas on the spot market, and when things happen like what’s happening in Ukraine, the cost of natural gas skyrockets. So in New England, compared to other states in the country, we pay much higher utility rates.

On taxes, Doughty said the so-called “Equitable Distribution Amendment,” a proposed constitutional amendment to be voted on in November that would add a 4% surtax on the portion of a person’s income over 1 million dollars, would “work in the short term. This will bring in more income. The problem is that it will divert investment dollars from our state and may also cause people to leave our state. It makes us less friendly when other states cut their taxes. »

Doughty said Massachusetts should look at what other states — he picked Virginia, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York — are doing with their tax policies.

“If we don’t respect everyone’s tax policies, we start losing citizens,” he said. “We are starting to lose businesses. As governor, I will spend a lot of time watching what other states are doing to succeed. »

affordable housing

On affordable housing, which is a concern in a skyrocketing housing market, Doughty said the state could do “about a dozen things” to encourage developers to build additional homes.

Doughty cited the City of Montreal as doing some good things when it comes to housing: reducing the number of projects requiring zoning changes, issuing building permits more quickly, and eliminating impact fees (which are supposed to offset the costs of additional infrastructure such as water, sewer, roads and school housing projects will produce).

Doughty has proposed expanding the state brownfields tax credit to pay for the cost of removing asbestos from old buildings such as old factories, as well as creating financial incentives for regional initiatives.

“I’m not a heavy thumb man,” Doughty said. “I am a man who listens, asks, speaks and tries to understand. If there was a city that said we don’t want to increase our housing stock, I would definitely want to understand why, make sure it makes sense, it’s common sense, and it’s practical.

Education and public safety

In ensuring K-12 schools meet the needs of their students and communities, Doughty said that while Massachusetts schools continue to rank highly in national surveys, “I hear from parents on the campaign trail and I kind of felt it in my own heart that things might erode some form for us.

Doughty said he would, if elected governor, have “high expectations” for himself, his education secretary and all schools in the state; setting up a hotline “for people to call the governor’s office if they feel like their child isn’t getting a good education in our state”; ensure that the state provides enough resources for “the children to have the halo effect, a nice school that looks good and is well maintained and well treated”; understand and address why teacher turnover, especially in low-income areas, is so high; and encourage teachers to “be in the classroom as much as possible, not do paperwork, and not be absent from class for days.”

In light of the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Doughty said he would, if elected, conduct a gap audit “where we’re going to study every school and say let’s study to ensure that we have appropriate safeguards on school grounds. »

Doughty also supports cities and towns by placing local police officers called School Resource Officers in their schools.

“Previously, it was useful for the police to be able to visit schools to build relationships and communicate, and for children to learn about the police in their lives,” he said. “I think we’ve lost a bit by not having the police around the kids so they feel comfortable with the police. It would be nice if the police had established a relationship with the children when they were young, so that the children would grow up feeling comfortable with the police, talking to them and having a relationship.

Doughty thinks no new gun laws are needed in Massachusetts. But, he added, “I would listen carefully to educators and the police to say, ‘What else do we need to do? What are your thoughts? Do we need to do anything? »

Access to abortion

The June 29 forum took place five days after the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down the constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade and allow states to pass their own abortion access laws.

Massachusetts allows abortion up to 24 weeks. And after the Supreme Court decision, Baker issued an executive order protecting physicians performing abortions from charges for performing an abortion on a resident of a state where it is prohibited.

“I believe all women have a right to reproductive health care services,” Doughty said. “As Governor, I recognize that in the State of Massachusetts abortions are safe and legal, accessible, and I will not change that. I will not change that, and I assure everyone that I will not change that.

Local Help, Race and Equity

In his responses to further questions, Doughty said:

• He supports increasing the amount of local aid that cities and towns receive so that they can determine where the aid should go, instead of locking that money into a specific program such as Chapter 90 (for repairing roads) and Chapter 70 (to support schools). Some of that money, Doughty said, would come from his plan to “reduce the cost of running our state government by 3% per year.”

• It would address race and equity issues in Massachusetts by “good jobs for everyone,” “making education affordable, available, and accessible to all citizens,” and ensuring that “Every citizen of our state needs to live in a community where they feel safe in.”

Melvin B. Baillie