SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker is joining forces with former state Rep. Karyn Polito as his running mate. The two made the announcement Tuesday in Polito’s hometown of Shrewsbury.
Appearing together at Brody’s Diner here, Polito said she contacted Baker after the summer to ask if they could talk. Baker said the two, who’ve known each other for a long time, had many discussions in recent months.
“Among the other things we share,” he said, “the first thing we always talk about when we get together is how our kids are doing. Karyn is a mom first, above all else, just like I’m a dad.”
That, they told a crowd of supporters, helps drive their approach to policy — which, they say, will focus on three things in this campaign: schools, jobs and communities.
“One of the things that’s most important to me, like him, is our deep sense of commitment to our communities,” Polito said. “I feel that in my discussions with Charlie, I know he has that. That is not something manufactured. That is not something taught. That is something you feel deep in your soul, as I do.”
“We don’t want kids in Massachusetts to have their destiny defined by their ZIP code,” Baker said. “We want kids in Massachusetts to believe when they get up and go to school every single day that they’re going to get the kind of education that’s going to prepare them for their future, where their parents can get up and go to work every day knowing that they’re going to be able to pay their bills.”
Baker served as secretary of administration and finance under former Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci and then became CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Polito was a state representative for 10 years and helps run her family’s real estate development business.
Baker acknowledges that Polito got more votes than he did in 2010, when he ran for governor and she ran for state treasurer.
“Yeah, she’s pointed that out to me,” he said to laughter.
That ability to get votes and raise money — and to appeal to voters in central Massachusetts and women — are assets to Baker.
He won’t address Polito’s growing conservative reputation, after her recent inroads with the Tea Party: whether it will be an asset in terms of attracting that part of the Republican base, or a liability that will alienate moderate Republicans and more centrist Democrats.
“You guys keep trying to break the Massachusetts community up into pieces,” Baker said to members of the media. “I’m not thinking about it that way. I am running for every vote in every community in Massachusetts, because I think everybody cares about the same things we care about.”
He added: “Our conversations were about, what do you really care about, why do you want to do this, where do you want to take the state? And those answers always came back to the same three issues.”
The state Democratic Party said in a statement Tuesday that while Baker is trying to reshape his image after his failed 2010 run, privately he’s trying to appease the Tea Party wing. They mentioned Polito’s appearances at Tea Party events, her opposition to gay marriage while a legislator, and her recent work as campaign chair for conservative former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan in his bid for U.S. Senate.
Polito and Baker pledge they would work in a bipartisan manner, in the image of Weld and his lieutenant governor, Cellucci, whom both call their mentor.
“[Cellucci is] someone that grew up in a town like this, in Hudson, not too far,” Polito said. “Came up through local government, worked in the family business, worked across party lines in the Legislature to get things done. He and Bill Weld worked really good together, and they agreed on a whole bunch of issues. And I could say that although we’re about a foot-and-a-half apart standing here today, we’re a lot closer on a lot of the issues.”
And they’re close on wanting what they call a “thrifty” and small, but strong, government.