Massachusetts Democrats held a two-day nominating convention in Worcester over the weekend where the Republican in the White House was more the focus of attention than the Republican in the Statehouse Corner Office.
President Trump was the target of scorn, ridicule, and ferocious criticism from speaker after speaker at the convention. By comparison, few who took the podium to address the thousands of delegates at the DCU Center even poked at Governor Charlie Baker – except for Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie the two Democrats running to oust the one-term governor.
Gonzalez, a budget chief under Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, won the convention endorsement over Massie by a large margin. Gonzalez said Trump gives Baker cover.
" Baker hides behind the chaos that Trump creates. He hopes it will lower our expectations and just be grateful he isn't crazy like our president," Gonzalez said. " That is not good enough."
Baker has taken pains to distance himself from Trump, who is wildly unpopular in Massachusetts according to public opinion polls. Those same polls show Baker with very high approval ratings, even among Democrats in Massachusetts.
" It is easy to be popular when you don't do anything and you never take a stand and your whole approach to the job is be cautious and not courageous," Gonzalez said speaking later with reporters.
The two top Democrats in the state legislature, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Harriette Chandler never mentioned Baker in their convention speeches.
Despite the deferential treatment Baker has received from the Democratic leadership on Beacon Hill, Gonzalez said he’s confident the party establishment will rally to him if he wins the primary in September.
" At the end of the day I would guess we will have the Democratic establishment behind the Democratic candidate for governor," said Gonzalez. "I hope that's me."
Massie too dismisses the pundits who argue Baker is unbeatable because of his huge advantage in fundraising and high job approval ratings.
" I don't see it. I see a strong Democratic ticket with a lot of voter support and plenty of cash, because everybody that goes out and knocks on a door for Elizabeth Warren will carry my literature too," Massie said speaking with reporters. " Baker is going to have trouble defending his failure to stand up to Donald Trump."
While party activists reveled at the Trump-bashing during the convention, Randy Tevelde, a delegate from Leverett, hoped for more pushback against Baker.
"I don't think he stands for anything really," said Tevelde. " He protects himself by being noncommital"
Pat Church, a delegate from Amherst, believes if the gubernatorial race can gain more traction in the media, Baker is beatable.
" Maybe I am an optomist, but so many things can happen during a debate," said Church.
A statement issued by the Baker campaign said in part that Baker and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, are “proud to have strong working relationships with their state and local colleagues across the aisle and an accomplished bipartisan record.”
Baker, who was endorsed for re-election by state Republicans at their convention in April, faces a primary challenge from controversial conservative pastor Scott Lively.