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“we can do better. We MUST do better” : Charlie Baker accepting the GOP convention’s nomination

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Today at Agganis Arena Charlie Baker accepted nomination by the Massachusetts Governor GOP. Indeed, he won 85.25 % of the delegates’ votes and thus avoids a primary.

I say “Massachusetts Governor GOP” because our state actually has two, completely separate Republican parties. The Governor GOP is attuned to winning elections for Governor and usually does win them. The Governor GOP appeals to most MA voters. It supports marriage equality, women’s right to choose, a rise in the minimum wage, environmental justice, and state action on transportation, public education, safety net, health care, and homelessness issue.

The other Massachusetts GOP, what I shall call the “party platform GOP,” accepts none of these agendas. The Party Platform GOP does not care about winning elections. Its concern is for what it calls “core values” and what most of the rest of us would call bigotry, selfishness, and accusation.

The Party Platform GOP had a candidate for Governor — a classy guy in person, let me make clear, but a man who called himself Tea Party — and who made no bones at all, in his nomination speech, about supporting every paragraph of the odious Party Platform. He said so.

He got 14.75 % of the delegate vote.

By falling short of even getting onto the ballot, the Party Platform candidate demonstrated to every voter in Massachusetts that the Tea Party’s views have no place in Massachusetts’s Governor GOP politics.

That was an important thing for the Governor GOP to make clear to Massachusetts voters. But this was, for Charlie Baker, only a prerequisite. Baker’s acceptance speech had also to advocate reforms that a majority of our State’s voters might want to sign onto.

He did this.

He spoke of disfunctional government ; and indeed the Patrick administration has mishandled the administration of much, from DCF to the Department of welfare to the utter failure of the State’s Obamacare online connector, not to overlook scandal in the State’s Crime Lab, the Probation Department, and patronage hires. Baker promised to do better — “do better” was his theme, really — and he took time to show that, as an administrator for Governors Weld and Cellucci, he had already done so.

Bill Weld joined Baker on the stage and anointed him. It mattered.

Baker spoke to many issues that the five Democrats have basically had to themselves recently : closing the schools achievement gap; a better plan for the homeless than putting them in hotel and motels; and educating a workforce able to fill the jobs that already exist but go unfilled for lack of applicants who can meet the requirements.

He grabbed hold of the reform of government mission — big time. Reform of government has always been first-call for the Massachusetts Governor GOP. Baker raised these stakes as high as possible, saying that the entire State administration needs “to be brought into the 21st Century. We must change the way the state does its business now ! This isn’t 1960 !”

His point has legs. It mirrors what John Connolly said, time and again, in last year’s Boston Mayor race : that it;s not enough to make incremental change; we must transform government, because the world we live in is transforming. Either we do it or it will be done TO us. Like Connolly in that mayor campaign, Baker specifically referenced the Patrick administration’s many failures of technology. “We can do better,” said Baker, time and time again.

He is right. we not only can do better, we must do better.

The convention loved it.

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under a confetti sky : Karyn Polito (L) and Charlie Baker (R) rejoicing

Baker said that Massachusetts doesn’t necessarily need new revenue; that the state can slim down and become smarter in how it administers and thus cost less, without having to skinflint key initiatives. This wasn’t the usual GOP no-taxes-ever point, not at all.

He laid down the gauntlet to his Democratic rivals, none of whom has come to grips with the details of state administration — partly because criticizing the Patrick administration is a bridge too far for candidates of Patrick’s political party.

Granted, that on a couple of matters — the huge cuts we’ve made to the DCF budget, and local aid cuts — Steve Grossman has in fact criticized Governor Patrick. I give him full credit for that. Don Berwick, too, has criticized the state’s ACA health connector as aggressively as Baker could ever do. I give Berwick full credit for THAT. (as both Baker and Berwick have made bones as health care administrators, a debate between them on this issue would be immense.) Yet these are details. On the issue of who can best administer the Governor’s future, Baker holds the prize

But being the best administrator is only half the battle. Just as important is which policies and legislative initiatives is the Governor to administer ? Of this, Baker said almost nothing.

His five Democratic rivals all adduce worthy policies, and large empathy for constituencies who need empathy and then action; and their suggestions have wide support, even majority support. Baker will have to stake out ground in these policy fields and do so boldly.

Nonetheless, Baker, by today’s speech has assured that his Democratic rivals will have to address stuff they don’t want to address or look like part of the problem, not of a solution.

Game on.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

below : the convention arena was full for the proceedings

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the would be Governor stoops for a spot of Tea : Karyn Polito to be Charlie Baker;s running mate

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A number of high-visibility Massachusetts pols did the attention-getting unexpected today. Perhaps the biggest such event of the day, however, was not a happy move and had the feeling of a surrender  : Charlie Baker, who almost certainly will be the Republican nominee for Governor next year, anointed one Karyn Polito as his Lieutenant Governor sidekick.

Who IS Karyn Polito ? A former State Representative from Shrewsbury and the 2010 Republican candidate for Treasurer. And why her ? It is speculated that Baker chose her because ( 1 ) Baker lost women voters in the 2010 Governor election by 24 points and ( 2 ) she is popular with the Worcester County Tea folks. As I wrote three days ago, Polito recently spoke at an event on the South Shore at which the featured guest was one Allen West, a stridently contemptuous, Tea party favorite and one-term (defeated) Florida Congressman. Polito is said to have praised West in her own speech at that event. That would be reason enough to wonder why Baker would link his candidacy to Polito, who served as campaign chair for Michael Sullivan’s right-wing US Senator campaign earlier this year. Sullivan’s opposition to marriage equality (and of course to transgender civil rights) mirrored Polito’s own recent legislative record. (Baker’s campaign says tat Polito has since come around and now shares his views on social issues.)

All of this represents a huge shift for Baker, who in 2010 chose as his running mate Richard Tisei, an openly gay State Senator who vigorously supports lifestyle civil rights — indeed, he was the original legaislative sponsor of the transgender rights bill that was enacted as law last year. As it happens, Polito, too, has made her own huge shift. During the Romney years she was — like almost all Massachusetts Republicans — strongly pro-choice and supportive of marriage equality. Of course we all know what Mitt Romney did in the years since he left he Massachusetts governorship. Polito has simply followed his example, bowing her reformist record to the voices who want to repeal all reform.

Such is the politician whom Baker has chosen as his symbol this campaign cycle : a gravatar of reaction, a face of opposition to nearly everything the GOP has stood for in Massachusetts since it was founded. Well might I call the Baker-Polito ticket “anti-Republican.”

Baker had other options. He could have chosen State Representative Geoff Diehl, a social progressive who spearheads the “Tank the Gas Tax” movement. He might have gone really bold and picked Pamela Julian, leader of the League of Women Voters and a force in Boston. Elizabeth Childs of Brookline was a possibility. I would have preferred any of these.

Will this ticket likely succeed with Massachusetts voters ? As hardly anybody votes for a Lieutenant Governor, in the end it probably won’t matter to anyone who isn’t a political junkie. But it should. A successful candidacy gives the angry anti’s of the Tea party a credibility that right now they thankfully lack.

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^ John Connolly as WHAT ? Mayor Walsh’s new school superintendent ? Not damn likely

No sooner had I digested this swig of political castor oil than news came that, in an interview by radio host Jim Braude, Mayor-elect Marty Walsh said that he “absolutely do(es) not rule out asking John Connolly to be his new superintendent of schools.”

WTF ? Immediately came the waves of outcry from the teachers union activists, the Diane Ravitch groupies, and the opponents of charter schools and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. That was to be expected. But I too, a supporter of Connolly and his “school transformation” vision, found the suggestion a red herring — or maybe a sly nick. Connolly is screwed by this knee-chop remark no matter how he responds — IF he does respond. His best response being to not respond at all. Clearly John Connolly has a ton of career options better than the tainted biscuit that Walsh so suavely served up.

Whoever agrees to be Mayor Walsh’s superintendant of schools is bound to disappoint almost everyone : school parents wanting big reform, the Teachers Union opposing every reform except its own politically unlikely agenda, the administrators, principals, kids — you name it. Boston’s public schools need significant reconfiguration; almost any new superintendent won’t be able to get it done. Why should John Connolly descend into that vortex ?

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^ Guess who is heading to Israel as a guest of the ADL ? Yup, Council Felix G. Arroyo.

No sooner had I digested the Connolly suggestion than Councillor Felix G. Arroyo announced that he is visiting Israel next week as a guest of the Anti-Defamation League. This surprised me. Most politicians allied with the Labor Left — and Arroyo is definitely there — are supporters of the Palestinians, not the ADL. So what is up ? Politicians make trips to Israel when they have high officer in mind. Might Felix G. Arroyo be thinking of running for Lieutenant Governor ? It would make sense. He would enhance the Democratic ticket no matter which of the four likely hopefuls becomes the nominee. He’d be an inspired choice. Is Arroyo on it ?

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : this is article was updated December 5, 2013 at 8:00 am.