State House Roundup: In Good Times, And In Bad

Before a tightly packed audience of family and friends, Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Charlie Baker quieted the din of clinking coffee mugs.

His attendance confirmed only hours before, Baker made the trek west to say “I do” and cement a political marriage with former Rep. Karyn Polito on an altar staged in a small diner in Shrewsbury, formerly known as the Pastrami Shack.

His wife, Lauren, was there too.

Baker, whether he was forced to propose or did so willingly and out of genuine admiration, will likely remember this moment a year from now when he is either planning his inaugural, or wondering how he lost the governor’s race, again. These types of decisions tend to have tentacles. Just ask Tom Reilly or Tim Cahill.

The pros and cons of adding Polito to the ticket – despite the less-than-secret trepidation in Baker-land about the value of choosing a running mate at all – were immediate and abundantly clear. Though Polito has been out of the game for three years, she said she was “super excited” to get back out there, and some believe she might have done it with or without Baker’s blessing.

The dowry included an allied candidate for lieutenant governor from central Massachusetts with a proven record of fundraising who could be able to help him appeal to women voters, who in 2010 helped lift Gov. Deval Patrick to re-election.

Baker will take the money, but he’s not doing too badly so far on his own, raking in more than $194,000 in November to easily clear any of the Democrats in the race for the second straight month. Baker actually spent more money last month, $160,000, than the top-fundraising Democrat Treasurer Steven Grossman raised.

Back to Polito, who as a five-term lawmaker, can turn out voters of all types. In fact, despite losing to Treasurer Steve Grossman in 2010, Polito was the top Republican vote-getter with even more check marks next to her name than Baker. It was a fact that Baker joked about being brought to his attention more than once during his conversations with Polito leading up to the pre-Thanksgiving decision to get hitched.

But Baker also risks the image he has been carefully cultivating since he formally got into the race in September as a centrist with liberal social views who can manage the purse strings, bring balance to Beacon Hill, and has less hardened stances on taxes than during his 2010 run.

The Baker campaign spent the days after the union trying to walk the fine line of keeping a conservative GOP base energized and happy, while not turning off the moderate independents and Democrats he will need next November.

If there was any doubt how dicey this task can be, the Boston Globe on Friday detailed a fomenting revolt among conservatives threatening to abandon Baker over Polito’s softened position toward gay marriage (it’s established law and should not be challenged.) The alternative, they threaten, could be Mark Fisher, a self-described Tea Party member and engineer from Shrewsbury, who is new to politics, and so far running on the “No Tolls….” platform.

In summation, conservative Republicans were willing to back the fiscally conservative Baker, despite his support for gay marriage, but are having second thoughts now that his running mate shares a similar, if evolved, position. Go figure.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who no longer has to worry about such things, spent his week bouncing in and out of Massachusetts between tree lightings, State Department briefings, fundraisers and a date with the Governor’s Council before hopping a non-stop jet to Tokyo Friday morning for his latest trade mission to Asia.

In the midst of the holiday bustle, his administration filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Judicial Court challenging the Aquinnah Wampanoag’s interpretation of a 1983 land settlement agreement between the tribe and the state for land on Martha Vineyard.

The governor contends that the Aquinnah tribe forfeited its tribal gaming rights on the Gay Head property when it signed the deal, but tribal leaders assert that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act supersedes that pact and want to proceed with a casino.

Patrick also announced that starting next spring the MBTA would start a pilot program to run subway and key bus routes until 3 a.m. on weekends, a $20 million project helping Boston Mayor-elect Marty Walsh make good on a campaign goal. Because the MBTA plans to seek corporate sponsors and could hike late-night fares to pay for the pilot, the contention is that the program won’t grow a projected $25 million deficit at the transit agency next year.

The gap, despite an infusion of new tax dollars for transportation, exists according to MassDOT officials due to an arbitration award for a T union representing bus drivers, subway operators, maintenance workers and others who would receive a 10.4 percent salary increase and retroactive raises going back to 2010. The T is appealing.

With one eye on Martha’s Vineyard, the Gaming Commission postponed a decision on Suffolk Downs’s bid to relocate its casino project in Revere, while the commission’s Chairman Stephen Crosby recused himself from deliberations on a land purchase for an Everett casino because of long-standing ties to the owner of the property.

Crosby still believes he could be impartial, which one can presume is why he intends to participate fully in the final licensing decision on Everett, even though his former business partner might have much to gain by that vote as well.

While Patrick was on his way back from Washington D.C. on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was already in Boston meeting with Mayor-elect Marty Walsh to discuss their burgeoning partnership. But instead of questions about block grants or immigration reform, Warren found herself answering to whether Walsh would have a partner in the U.S. Senate or the White House.

“I am not running for president and I plan to serve out my term,” Warren said, repeating a denial that has done little to quell speculation, much of it by the media, about her potential to carry the torch for the populist left in 2016. Under pressure, Warren even assented to the stronger “pledge” to remain in the Senate and out of the Democratic presidential field.

Words matter, until sometimes they don’t.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Karyn Polito, who unlike Sen. Elizabeth Warren is “super excited” to run for higher office, joins Charlie Baker on the redemption trail.

This program aired on December 6, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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