^ right now, the team to beat : Karyn Polito and Charlie Baker
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Governor campaigns in Massachusetts resemble no other partisan election here. Whatever the polarization poisoning elections to national office, none have any force when our commonwealth’s voters go to choose who will run things at the State House. It was proved to me forcefully, yesterday at the iconic Dorchester day parade. There, marching over three miles along Dorchester Avenue from Lower Mills to Columbia Road, Republican candidate Charlie Baker got a very enthusiastic reception from the crowd — mot of whose hands he shook. There, in the heartland of Marty Walsh’s almost entirely Democratic-enrolled wards of Boston, Baker — and his electrifying running mate Karyn Polito — conquered all. Beyond the reception, which might well be just a nicety, there was commitment given by many activists and neighborhood leaders whom i talked to. There was also, so a first hand source told me, a very good bond established– revived — even celebrated — between Mayor Walsh and both Baker and Polito, conversing before the parade’s start, with whom, after all, Walsh served during his legislative time. I do not suppose a commitment was given; that wouldn’t work. But my source’s impression — that of a political activist — was that Baker, Polito, and Walsh made it clear to each other that they could work together and would work together if Baker is elected. One friend, who is himself a candidate this year (not for Governor), seeing the reception given to Baker, told me quite directly : “Baker’s gonna win.” There are several solid reasons why Baker and Polito look so strong right now : 1. Baker and Polito are running as a team. On the Democratic side, with four (of five) governor hopefuls running and three (or four) lieutenant governor hopefuls, who knows who will be the ticket ? Or if they can work together, even like one another ? In addition, none of the Democratic candidates or the second spot has anything close to the experience that Karyn Polito has, not to mention the charisma. 2. Baker — and Polito — have forged solid ties to several big-city ethnic communities, not to mention the LGBT communities. I’ve personally witnessed it and seen the results as I have talked to many, many people whom I know in all these communities. The reception given baker and Polito at the Dorchester Day parade tells me that, as of now, they’d win a much bigger share of the Boston vote than any of the Democratic hopefuls : possibly as much as 40 %. Of course the election is NOT now. But the momentum and presence is there. 3.The fundamental fact of how Massachusetts is governed is that only a GOP governor has a power base big enough, and independent enough, to deal with the Speaker of the House on a more or less equal footing. When the governor is a Democrat, he or she and the Speaker compete for influence within the same party — or else they split the party, and as has been shown time and again, the Speaker always wins that fight. It’s his agenda, his priorities, his timing, his details, that get enacted. With a strongly based GOP governor — and baker would be that — there’s influence on legislation beyond the Speaker’s range of power, and a GOP governor isn’t embarrassed, as Governor Patrick has been, facing a Speaker who is also a Democrat, to compromise with a Speaker not of his own party. Thus the fact ; a GOP governor and Democratic Speaker move the state forward with strong political efficiency. At last night’s Governor / Lieutenant Governor Forum at Roxbury Community College, all of the weaknesses of the Democratic position stood in plain sight. The lieutenant governor trio — Mike Lake, Steve Kerrigfan, James Arena-DeRosa- either bloviated with great prolixity Lake) or talked blue ribbon agendas that would do justice to a high school civics aclass but on which no elected lieutenant governor — certainly not these three, whom no one but activists has ever heard of — would have the slightest influence. The governor hopefuls definitely have learned a thing or two since I first saw them on stage Forum-ing. At the Roxbury event several actually mentioned Speaker DeLeo, quite respectfully too. Clearly they see that they had better include him in their message, because of exactly the problem i have outlined. The matter is not merely my own thing. at several recent Forums, progressives have pushed the governor hopefuls ; what exactly will you do about the Spreaker’s conservatism ? the answer that i heard most often last night was “compromise.” That they will have to do, because the agendas set forth by several at the Forum reach for the moon, a place that does not include Speaker DeLeo in its population. It is not a good sign when candidates feel the need to mae promises which they surely cannot keep, just as surely will have to unravel if they’re to get anything at all done. And much needs be done. Juliette Kayyem continues to get the fundamental point, one that Charlie baker has been talking for two months ; the state needs to modernize its systems big time. Baker calls it “move the state’s technology into the 21st Century,” Kayyem calls it “better data management,’ but the policy point is the same. Steve Grossman soke the Forum’s best answer, to any question, when in two minutes he summed up the injustice and the financial waste of incarcerating people for low level drug offenses. His message is too “jobs and business” to fit the progressive dream, but time and again he shows long and profound command of social justice issues. Clearly as governor he will be as aggressive as possible ; “level playing field, no one left out.” Yet Grossman has no more, or longer, commitment to social justice issues than Baker, and so far I have yet to see a Grossman plan that surpasses the social justice, economic connection tandem that Charlie Baker has put forth. All of what i have just written can change. Next weekend the democrats convene to choose a party nominee. After that, media focus will shift to that nominee and to the Democratic run up to the September primary. Baker will no longer have the voters basically to himself. And if the Democratic nominee has to play catch-up — ironic, in this bluest of states on national issues — there’s plenty of Democratic voters to play catch up with. Still, Baker and Polito have given themselves a huge head start; and my experience says that votes won early are the votes won most solidly. Steve Grossman, now the likely Democratic nominee, has a huge fight on his hands.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere