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Massachusetts governor race: Debate highlights

In the Massachusetts governor race, the four candidates sparred in their first televised debate Tuesday night. Democratic incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick noted economic growth while challengers pointed to eight tax hikes.

Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker, left, independent Timothy Cahill, second left, moderator Jon Keller, center, Gov. Deval Patrick, second right, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein, right, prior to the first televised debate Tuesday.

Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP

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The four candidates for Massachusetts governor sparred Tuesday on everything from jobs and the legacy of the Big Dig to the best ways to close the state's estimated multi-billion budget deficit during their first televised debate.

Democratic incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick defended his first term in office from stiff critiques by his three challengers, Republican Charles Baker, independent Timothy Cahill and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein, during the hour-long discussion on WBZ-TV.

Patrick said Massachusetts has begun to rebound from the recession faster than other states, although he acknowledged there is still a long way to go. The state's unemployment rate remains at about 9 percent, slightly below the national rate.

"The long-term solution is to grow this economy," Patrick said. "If we continue on this pace, we will make up at the end of this year all the jobs we lost in this recession.'

Baker charged Patrick hasn't done enough to curb spending and to reform and shrink government. He also faulted him for supporting eight tax increases, including a sales tax hike and an elimination of the sales tax exemption for alcohol sold in stores.

Baker said if Patrick had been more aggressive in overhauling state government during the past four years, Massachusetts wouldn't be facing an estimated budget deficit of more than $2 billion for the next fiscal year.

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