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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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^ huge SEIU candidates Forum last Saturday that Charlie Baker by-passed despite “repeated invitations sent,’ the SEIU program painfully  made known.

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Hard on the heels of last Saturday’s hugely attended SEIU Forum on the “low wage worker crisis” comes a Governor Candidate Forum at Faneuil hall this Friday. It begins at noon. The subjects this time are Energy, the Environment, and the Innovation Economy.

You would think that GOP leader Charlie Baker would want to be on stage at Faneuil hall. Its topics are his bread and butter. 28 citizen organizations are sponsoring the Forum. How can a serious candidate for Governor decline to participate ? As Baker also declined the SEIU Forum ? I ask the question rhetorically, because Baker has indeed declined both.

This is what one would expect of the rejectionist GOP, the Tea Party that looks upon Massachusetts’s broad and diverse citizenry as an enemy.

Baker isn’t Tea Party at all. Just the opposite. So what gives ? His apologists say that he is visiting people and neighborhoods everywhere; fine and good; but that is what Scott Brown did for his entire three years as our Senator, and it didn’t get him re-elected.

As I see it, by not participating in an issues Forum set up by citizen organizations that expend much time and money to make them happen, you send a message entirely negative, a disrespect for citizens who care, as well as for the issues that they care about. We’re not talking gun nuts here, or rabid anti-taxers. We’re talking citizen reform — core of what the Massachusetts GOP has always been best at.

Skipping out of such events is the wrong thing to do. It makes me question the seriousness of Charlie Baker’s candidacy.

That Baker has the GOP convention on tap this Saturday is no excuse. His nomination is assured, and it could only enhance his candidacy to speak sharply on the issues at very public Forums widespread reported in the media.

Had Baker a huge money advantage, a case could be made that he is the people’s choice already and needn’t participate in Forums where his candidacy might find itself challenged. I think this a wrong argument, because why shouldn’t his candidacy be challenged ? if Baker cannot respond to challenges — many of them — on a face to face basis, he shouldn’t be running. In any case, he does not hold a vast money lead. The six candidates — the five Democrats and Charlie Baker — reported the following donations, expenses, and ending balance for the month of February :

Charlie Baker

beginning 562,808.84
receipts 209,425.05
expenses 184,735.99
ending bal 587,497.90

Steve Grossman

beginning 1,048,299.70
receipts 91,091.67
expenses 129,780.51
ending bal 1,003,619.86

Martha Coakley

beginning 494,328.43
receipts 184,245.04
expenses 175,951.68
ending bal 502,619.79

Juliette kayyem

beginning 160,119.47
receipts 65,038.58
expenses 108.454.20
ending bal 116,701.85

Don Berwick

beginning 174,376.01
receipts 116,670.06
expenses 139,326.80
ending bal 151,819.27

Joe Avellone

beginning 142,166.73
receipts 14,718.37
expenses 35,512.55
ending bal 121,372.55

Charlie Baker raised more money than anyone in February, but not by much more than Don Berwick, and his money on hand pales in comparison to what Steve Grossman — the clear Democratic caucus winner — commands. Baker barely has more money than Martha Coakley, whose fundraising in February picked up significantly.

Baker’s donations also arise from the usual sources ; CEO’s, high powered lawyers and developers, and residents of old-line GOP towns like Boxford, Hamilton, and communities in the Mid-Cape (Cod). In his February list I couldn’t find even one donor from Baker’s home town of Swampscott. It’s possible that I missed one; but there sure weren’t many. It’s possible, too, that big name Governor GOP donors already maxed out ($ 500 per year per person) in January; I hope so, because I saw very few such on Baker’s February list.

Meanwhile, donors to the five Democrats span pretty much the entirety of diverse Massachusetts, including even CEOs. Massachusetts works best when we pair an innovative GOP Governor with an institutional boss, Democratic House Speaker. But to get that pairing, Baker will have to step it up and be BOLD. He has been a leader on many issues this time around — look at his support for the Minimum wage hike, contrary to GOP orthodoxy — but as i see it, he needs to be bold on everything. And bolder.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : The Boston Globe today opines that Charlie baker will get more than enough delegates to keep his Tea Party rival off the Primary ballot. this has been my view for at least the last ten days. It makes me all the more bewildered why Baker has avoided attending and speaking at major Citizen Forums. Is he afraid that if he does, the anti-everything GOP that he has spent the last three years buying off will rise up and snarl ?