#MAGOV : A GOOD TWO WEEKS FOR CHARLIE BAKER — AND JULIETTE KAYYEM

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^ spark and height : Karyn Polito joins Team Charlie Baker and announces her support for marriage equality

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From December’s start to now, Republican favorite Charlie Baker has put his campaign into solid definition on many fronts. First, he chose a running mate, former State Representative Karyn Polito, who ran a strong State-wide race for Treasurer in 2010 and has as much charisma as any Republican in the state. A high point of their alliance, to all Massachusetts voters of good will, was Polito discarding her anti-gay rights past and joining Baker’s long-standing support for marriage equality. Second, he released a Homelessness Alleviation Plan that actually addresses the issue, in a beneficial manner completely unlike the contempt that we’ve become so used to hearing from Republicans these past six years, a plan that none of Baker’s Democratic rivals will surpass — they’ll be hard-pressed to equal it. Third, Baker almost raised more money, in this period, than his five Democratic rivals combined.

Baker and Polito announced their ticket allliance on December 3rd. Last night they held a campaign Kick-Off fund-raiser at Coral Seafood on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. (After which they campaigned along the street’s “restaurant row.”) Polito has added plenty of spark to the Baker brand. It made last night’s event worth the time. Before she and her entourage of young, almost trendy supporters entered the room, the average age of the Baker donors was easily 60. It was — to this Boston-based observer — an almost defiantly unhip group of flattops, toupees, and 1970s sideburns. Nor was there much excitement; the mood of the 150 donors was cardboard flavorless. Then Polito stepped into the room, radiant face, televisably sleek, a “great to see you” outreach, and — yes — excitement. She changed the mood from cardboard to glossy brochure.

The Boston Globe notes that Baker’s fund-raising falls way short of the donations amde to him in 2009, as he was preparing a 2010 run for Governor. But that’s not the right comparison. He was then running against incumbent Deval Patrick. This time the office of Governor is open. In 2009, Baker’s name wasn’t well-known; today it is. The measure of Baker’s success now is his five Democratic rivals. Against them, he is showing strong. Let’s look at the December 1st through 19th receipt numbers reported to the state’s Office of campaign finance, as of 9.30 this morning, December 20 :

Charlie Baker : 203,290.69
Steve Grossman : 106,554.00
Martha Coakley : 88,298.73
Donald Berwick : 72,428.35
Juliette Kayyem : 5,522.04 (receipts 12/15-19 not reported yet)
Joe Avellone : 9,329.11

Several of the Democrats have already filed full bank reports for the December 1st through 15th period. Here are the numbers :

Candidate            Begin Balance Receipts Expenses End balance

Martha Coakley 285,272.65 83,073.73 59,635.73 306,711.13
Donald Berwick 155,521.08 52,973.35 59,266.40 149,237.93
Juliette Kayyem 222,717.32 5,522.04 77,627.56 150,611.80

The Juliette Kayyem receipt number surely misleads. During this same time she has pressed a social media and meet and greet campaign second to none; it has boosted her social media presence enormously — far larger a boost than for all her rivals combined. Her twitter following has gained + 2,553 since November 10th when I first checked. No rival comes close. She’s doing more voter outreach than them all — campaigning almost like somebody running for Boston Mayor. Yes, that thorough and up-close. I am impressed.

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^ Juliette Kayyem at La Semana Television

It would surprise not to see Kayyem post a noteworthy fund-raising number in her December 31 or January 15th report. Like Baker, she has released action plans — more of them than Baker so far. We seem to have entered the campaign’s Policy Plan season; every one of the six chief contenders — except Martha Coakley, who is still working her Attorney General agenda as a kind of Governor rehearsal — is releasing Policy plans on everything from Green Environment to Health care costs to criminal justice reform, immigrants’ rights, and women’s health.

The feeling in Berwick’s plans parallels that in Charlie Baker’s Homelessness alleviation paper — maybe because both men come from the health care field. It would greatly uplift the political morale of Massachusetts to see the two of them become the campaign’s finalists. But Berwick has had less success with voters than Kayyem, and he has also fallen into the no-casino hole. Kayyem has avoided cul-de-sac issues and focused herself on the main chance. a final between her and Baker would be a classic policy battle : who has broader capability and a stronger resume predicting success ? Kayyem versus Baker might even rise above the polarized mess that partisan Washington has put upon us. Both candidates are solid reformers who believe that government should benefit people.

What, then, of Steve Grossman and Martha Coakley, presumed to be the two strongest Democrats ? They are that — for now. Grossman has run a laid-back campaign, an almost State of Maine nonchalance. Yet he has by far the most money on hand — I await his December 15th Bank report — and, as state Treasurer, has state-wide connect and name recognition. One woners if his campaign’s low heat is an intentional stance ; that he feels that after so much over-passioned politics, voters of Massachusetts would welcome a candidate who doesn’t stoke fires, who approaches governance with patience, not hurry. On the other hand, as reported, most of Grossman’s fundraising has come from interests doing business with the state. That’s a lazy way to fundraise, and it invites questions about Grossman’s independence. Would Grossman, as baker’s opponent, fall back upon Democrat versus Republican rather than address the State’s actual issues ? It could be.

And now for Martha Coakley. The polls say that she is the clear Democratic favorite. I doubt that will be true after February caucus month. Her fund-raising falls short. She’s running on Attorney General issues. She continues to be the wan campaigner who lost that now legendary 2009 US Senator campaign to then barely known Scott Brown. No activist has forgotten that campaign. It’s one thing to be laid back like Grossman; it’s another to be flat and cliche, words that define Coakley as a campaigner.

In any case, December so far belongs to Charlie Baker and Juliette Kayyem. With the Holiday period now beginning, the rest of December is likely to stay that way.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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