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In Left-Leaning Massachusetts, Baker's Bipartisan Pitch Appears To Be Paying Off


In this hyper-partisan political climate, the Republican governor of Massachusetts is highlighting endorsements from Democrats as he campaigns for re-election to a second term.

   In a television campaign ad, several Democratic elected office holders appear one-by-one on camera to announce their endorsement of Republican Governor Charlie Baker.

       The campaign of Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has publicized endorsements from two Democratic state legislators, and nine Democratic mayors as well as seven mayors who identify politically as independent.

   Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced his endorsement of Baker back in August. He explained in an interview then that Baker was supportive of Springfield’s efforts to improve the public schools and the local economy. 

    Sarno added he has a close working relationship with Baker.

   " We talk all the time," said Sarno. "He calls me all the time and vice-versa."

    The Democratic mayor, who has already said publicly he will run for re-election in 2019, said his endorsement is not about politics but about what he believes is best for Springfield.

  " People want us to work together and get it done," Sarno insisted. " They are sick of this partisanship that is occuring on the federal level, state level, or even the local level here."  

    Sarno said he and Baker are both " action-oriented guys" who are focused on outcomes.

   Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman, who is chairman of the Springfield Democratic City Committee, downplayed the significance of Sarno’s endorsement of Baker.

  " We are closing ranks as Democrats, working together, and campaigning for Jay Gonzalez, for Quentin Palfrey ( the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor) at the top of the ticket," said Lederman.

   Highlighting the difficulty Democrats have had in presenting a united partisan front in this year’s gubernatorial election were the recent remarks by Democratic State Rep. Bud Williams of Springfield about Baker.

  Speaking at an event in Springfield, where the governor had come to announce state funding to refurbish the Paramount Theater, Williams heaped praise on Baker, calling him “our statewide quarterback.”

  " This man does a lot. From Boston to Springfield to Worcester to Lawrence to Lowell. He cares about the urban communiy. You know what urban community means?  Black and brown," said Williams.

   Campaigning in Springfield Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez said he was not discouraged about losing “a handful” of endorsements to Baker.

   " We've seen this in elections across the country and right here in Massachusetts with Ayanna Pressley's race and other insurgent candidates just a few weeks ago proves that money and special interests and endorsements and polls aren't what's deciding elections," said Gonzalez.

   A WBUR/MassINC poll released in late September found 52 percent of Democrats in Massachusetts said they would vote for Baker.

  Gonzalez says he’s detected a momentum shift in the race since last week’s debate when Baker fumbled his response when asked if he would vote for Geoff Diehl, the Republican challenging Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren.

    "We see it when I'm out and about, people are coming up to me, they recognize me, they tell me they are voting for me," said Gonzalez.  " I think a lot of people have been distracted by the circus in Washington and are just starting to tune in to this race."

   With early voting underway now in Massachusetts and the Red Sox playing in the World Series, Gonzalez’s underfunded campaign may struggle to build on the boost he believes the debate gave him.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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