MASSACHUSETTS : REMAKING THE STATE’S REPUBLICAN PARTY (PART 2)

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^ State Representative Sheila Harrington : her decision to support of H 1577 is likely a positive effect of the Baker campaign to take control of the GOP State Committee

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Yesterday I wrote about Governor Baker’s campaign to take full control of the State Committee, the 80-person body charged, by law, with directing a political party in Massachusetts. I stated that Baker’s move is limited to the state GOP only; that the national GOP is an entirely separate matter related but tangentially to the GOP of Massachusetts and what is happening to it — subject to one big “if”  which I will discuss below.

Baker’s state committee campaign has been undeer way for some time. Much money is being deployed to fight it and win. Baker is publicly endorsing a list of state committee member candidates and opposing others.

I mentioned in yesterday’s story that Baker seeks control of a body that is his power platform in dealings with the Speaker of the House and Senate President, whose absolute control of their legislative bodies Baker hopes to match. Full state committee control assures him maximum power to command a legislative agenda of his own. Governors haven’t often commanded that power. Consequently the legislative leaders bulldoze everything.

Because the Massachusetts GOP is so small, control of the state committee matters, as the Democratic state committee, overseeing a party three times as sprawling, does not.

Baker’s move already is having an effect. State Representative Sheila Harrington (of Groton), who in 2012 voted against that session’s transgender rights bill, now reportedly supports adding public accommodations protection to it. (the House Bill is H 1577.) Harrington’s support is significant for a bill that Baker has avoided positioning upon so as not to give his state committee opposition a hot button issue to rally behind. My sense is that Harrington’s support for H 1577 portends (1) that many of the 36 other GOP members of the House will join her (2) that she expects Baker will lead the fight for its enactment once he takes the state committee and (3) Harrington, who ran for GOP National Committeewoman in 2012 and lost narrowly, will seek that office again, with Baker’s blessing.

Even if my read of Harrington’s support for H 1577 goes too far, Baker’s state committee surge suggests he will be able to support a fiscal year 2017 State Budget more advanced, by way of revenue, than the “no new taxes” budget enacted in fiscal year 2016. This, he will have to do, as (1) the MBTA and Commuter rail will require substantial additional funds for working down a $ 7.6 billion infrastructure and equipment backlog and (2) expansion of early education cannot be further delayed. Baker also owns a full queue of forward legislation — criminal justice reforms, charter school cap lifts, a clean energy proposal more progressive than the House version, and what he calls “the second part” of an initiative to assist low-wage workers, the first part of which was EITC expansion.

Might Baker even support the $15/hour minimum wage now being passionately advocated by the SEIU and others ? It is not impossible.

Doubtless he could secure most of these, as House Speaker DeLeo backs them; but Baker would like these enactments to include provisions of his choosing rather than a DeLeo alternative. Being able to command the votes of, say, 30 out of 37 House GOP members would help Baker’s negotiations enormously.

Will it be that simple ? Baker surely wins control of the GOP state committee, but he has absolutely no sway with the national GOP , which holds positions, on just about every issue, hugely at odds with Baker’s. So far, the national GOP has let Massachusetts alone, because it knows it cannot win any elections here. Its donors know that as well.

At the level of individual voters, a significant number newly registered for this year’s dramatic, angry Presidential campaign weighs upon the rolls of Massachusetts Republicans’ mere 11 percent. These new voters, and those who have enrolled during the last seven years of angry national political strife, cannot be ignored forever. To the extent that they know anything about the Baker agenda, they oppose it. Money PACs minded like theirs are also popping up. The field does not belong entirely to Baker and his party soldiers.

The oppositionist habits of the newly enrolling, nationally oriented Republican voters would also, if these voters knew about it, extend to the tactics of GOP Governor campaigns. Since 1970 at least, the election of GOP Governors in Massachusetts has depended upon Boston-area Democratic activists. We have elected GOP Governors for most of these 45 years because Democratic activists prefer the political independence of a GOP Governor to the factional weakness of a Democrat. Further, large numbers of Boston activists can back Baker because his agenda has the support of an overwhelming majority of city voters. That would not be the case were Baker a national Republican taking positions anathema to almost every activist in sight.

Will the Republican electorate of eight to twelve years from now be as sophisticated ? As willing as Massachusetts GOP voters are now to back a Governor candidate who supports political Massachusetts majority sentiment, utterly at odds with the national GOP ? Knowing that given their small number, and politically isolated, they cannot win any statewide election ever ? Or will we, like so many other states, become a society of “red” versus “blue” ? Because these voters — “red” versus “blue” to the core — will populate the future Massachusetts GOP, the current Massachusetts GOP rank ad file being well over age 60 on average.

Upon a positive answer to that question rests the entire success or complete failure of the Baker Republican iitiative.

—- Mike 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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