BOSTON, Massachusetts — Former Sen. Scott Brown handed Democrat Martha Coakley her first stunning loss in the 2010 Senate race. Now, Charlie Baker, Massachusetts’ GOP gubernatorial nominee, is hoping to beat her in the race to be the state’s next governor.
Baker is actually leading Coakley in some polls, and even leading Democrats concede they think he would do well in the job. In an interview, he said he’s succeeding with voters because he’s got a proven track record of getting the job done in government and in the private sector.
“I think the biggest difference between Martha Coakley and me—at a time when the number one issue for voters in Massachusetts is creating jobs and growing the economy—the attorney general has spent her entire career in the public sector,” Baker told Breitbart News on Saturday morning, adding:
She hasn’t had a private sector background. She hasn’t been involved in job creation and economic development. In contrast, in me, I have a background where I spent eight years working for Governor Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci in their cabinet when they were governor and lieutenant governor and then governor respectively in the 1990s when we grew our economy by over 500,000 jobs and we took our unemployment rate from the highest in the country to the lowest in the country over that time period.
According to the latest Boston Globe poll, conducted August 24 through August 26 in Massachusetts, Baker leads Coakley by one point—38 percent to her 37 percent. A poll since then from a different pollster conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and WHDH Boston’s channel 7, the local NBC News affiliate, conducted August 25 to August 31 had Coakley leading Baker 41 percent to 32 percent.
Putting a Republican in the governor’s mansion in Massachusetts would be a huge symbolic coup for the national GOP heading into 2016, but it’s not unusual for the voters of one of, if not the most, liberal states in America to elect GOP governors. Before Democrat Deval Patrick took over the commonwealth of Massachusetts in January 2007 after winning the 2006 election, Republicans held the Bay State’s governor’s mansion for years. Mitt Romney directly preceded Patrick, and before him, in reverse chronological order, Republicans Jane Swift, Paul Cellucci, and William Weld served in the state’s top elected office from 1991 until the end of 2006.
“She has talked a lot about billions of dollars in spending she would like to do as governor. And she hasn’t been shy about the fact that she’s willing to raise taxes to do that,” Baker said of Coakley in his interview with Breitbart News. He went on to state:
The commonwealth of Massachusetts has raised taxes by about $2 billion over the past six years, and voters in Massachusetts are just tapped. The idea that the solution to our problems at this point going forward is billions of dollars in new spending and billions of dollars in new taxes just won’t wash with the voters. I’ve been pretty clear that I think what we need to do on Beacon Hill is cinch our belts and reform government and learn to live the same sort of thriftiness that I see when I’m out there on the campaign trail talking to regular people.
Baker’s history is an interesting one. During the Weld and Cellucci administrations, he served in various senior cabinet positions in Massachusetts state government—working on health care and finance issues. After he left government, he went to work for Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, taking the company out of receivership and financial disarray into success; it was projected to lose millions of dollars before he got there, and when he took over he turned it into one of the most successful non-profit health care organizations in the nation during which time it had 24 straight profitable quarters.
When asked what he did there on a big picture level that turned the company around—and how that would translate in a leadership role for the state of Massachusetts—Baker said there are “three things” he did.
“First off, we built a great team,” Baker said. “With great organizations, the first thing you got to do is build a great team. You can’t make every decision every day and you really need to have people on the team who can perform and can deliver.” The second thing that had to be done, he said, was “to set the bar high and be very clear about what you’re trying to accomplish.” The third thing was “to hold people accountable.”
Because of what’s essentially one-party rule in Massachusetts—Democrats control all of the state government—Baker says there’s been no accountability in the state.
“One of the great problems we have on Beacon Hill right now and it would continue under a Coakley administration is it’s all Democrat,” Baker said, continuing:
It’s the most heavily Democratic legislature in the country. You’ve got a Democratic governor, all the statewide officials are Democrats, and there’s no checks and balances there. There’s no constructive friction. There’s no push and shove among these players. They’re all on the same team, and therefore, the kind of accountability you get when you have both teams on the field is just non-existent in Massachusetts. That’s a big part of how you create accountability. And accountability in government—boy when I think about what we did at Harvard Pilgrim, people knew exactly what was expected of them, and they went out and they got it done. We were pretty aggressive about making sure we understood why and fixing it. We’re just not doing that right now in state government.
One of the most interesting things about Baker’s campaign this year—he ran for governor against Patrick in 2010 and lost—is this time he has honed in on how illegal immigration is affecting Massachusetts citizens. He’s hammered the Patrick administration—and Coakley, who would likely follow in the same direction as Patrick has on just about everything, including these issues—for considering allowing the federal government and President Obama’s administration to bring illegal immigrant children who entered the country due to the border crisis to Massachusetts. Baker argued at the time—before it was eventually decided that Massachusetts would not take those children—that homeless and economically struggling legal immigrants and Massachusetts citizens should be taken care of before the state’s taxpayers take care of illegal aliens. Baker also, according to the Boston Herald, rolled out a proposal that calls for Section 8 public housing to be reserved for legal residents who are struggling over illegal immigrants.
“That’s not helping,” Baker said when Breitbart News asked him about the effects of illegal immigration on the commonwealth of Massachusetts and its various cities and towns. Elaborating, Baker asserted:
Number one, the inability of the federal government to deal with illegal immigration is a policy problem in Washington, but it’s a very different and much more direct and immediate issue for state leaders and local leaders such as mayors and other local officials because they end up dealing with the consequences of not having an immigration policy at the federal level that works. During the past seven years, while state spending has gone up by billions of dollars, the state has cut local aid to cities and towns by hundreds of millions of dollars—which has made it very difficult for cities and towns to do what they need to do to ensure public safety, education, basic services and all the rest.
Baker said that if elected governor, he’d join other governors nationwide to highlight the effects of illegal immigration on states and local governments nationally.
“I talk a lot during my campaign about how I think we should be investing in these cities and towns and providing these cities and towns with the things that they need to get the job done in their communities,” Baker said. “I think as governor, I would want to be a part of a coalition of governors nationally to make clear to the federal government the consequences of their failed policies on immigration and what that means to cities and towns and to states—where the practical reality is that that failed policy plays itself out every single day.”
After the interview, Baker’s spokesman added in an email that he opposes in-state tuition for, and giving out driver’s licenses to, illegal immigrants.
Baker has a tough road ahead before November—and he’s been working to build support throughout the state, including specifically meeting with and talking to Democrats who are joining his campaign over Coakley’s. Baker has picked up the endorsement of Coakley’s longtime hometown former North Adams mayor Democrat John Barrett, NECN wrote this weekend, and met with Quincy’s Democratic Mayor Thomas Koch.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano has said he thinks Baker would be a good governor, but he has endorsed Coakley for the position. “I don’t have anything bad to say about [Baker]. That doesn’t mean I agree with him on policy and philosophy,” Capuano said, noting that his endorsement of Coakley “means I agree with Martha Coakley on policy and philosophy more often than not.”
Boston’s new mayor, Democrat Marty Walsh, also said he thinks Baker would be a good governor. “I like Charlie,” Walsh said, according to NECN. “Charlie’s actually a good man. I worked with him indirectly at the state house when he was there. Would he be a good Governor[?] He would be a good Governor. They have two different styles.”
All that said, the Democratic political machine in Massachusetts is alive and well beating up Baker every day on the airwaves.
“The Democrats have a big machine, and they’ll do everything they can to hold onto the power that they have and to maintain the status quo,” Baker told Breitbart News of what lies ahead between now and election day. “They’ve already started running negative TV ads against me because they don’t really have a message or vision for the voters that’s a forward-looking or positive one.” He added, “I think it’ll be a very, very hard-fought campaign, but when you’re talking about spending, jobs, taxes, reform, welfare reform, the voters in Massachusetts are on our side on those issues. And I think they’re going to be with us.”
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