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As Gov. Charlie Baker puts his head down and focuses on his State House work, his Republican re-election opponent, conservative Springfield pastor Scott Lively, said Tuesday the incumbent governor is afraid to debate him because the governor knows Lively would "mop the floor" with him.
Lively, a Republican challenging Baker in this year's gubernatorial primary, showed up at the state's elections office on Tuesday to turn in the first installment of signatures that will qualify him for the GOP primary ballot in September.
Calling Baker both "wonkish" and "thuggish," Lively issued dual challenges to his opponent: agree to campaign spending limits and a one-on-one debate. Since the Republican Party convention in late April, Baker has made clear he does not intend to engage with Lively, a pro-Trump conservative who is controversial for his positions on LGBT issues.
"He wants to avoid a debate," Lively told reporters. "Charlie Baker is not a very good debater. He's wonkish on the one hand, but he's thuggish on the other and he just doesn't do well in that kind of a setting."
He continued, "He's afraid to debate me and he should be because I would mop the floor with him. That's not just bragging. I don't think he has a leg to stand on when it comes to Republican values so he's going stay as far away from me as he can, but I'm still going to challenge him to debate so here it is again, Charlie Baker, come on out, come out of hiding."
Baker deputy campaign manager Billy Pitman declined to comment on Lively's critique of the governor's debating prowess or his latest debate challenge, pointing instead to the governor's past public comments. Baker, who has not outlined a second-term agenda, has said he intends to focus on his work on Beacon Hill until formal legislative sessions end on July 31 before turning his attention to the campaign. The primary this year is on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Lively also showed off a copy of the form he had submitted opting into the state's public campaign financing program, which requires an agreement to limit spending in a primary for governor to $1.5 million.
"It's considered to be the ethical policy of Massachusetts to keep campaign spending down, so I'm complying with that...," Lively said. "We shouldn't let people buy elections. That's not the American way, or it didn't used to be."
Candidates for governor who opt into public financing and agree to spending limits can become eligible for up to $750,000 in tax dollars for a primary campaign.
The amount of money a candidate receives is dependent on how many candidates opt into the system and how much money is available in the fund. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance said Tuesday that the fund currently has just under $1.2 million available.
Baker, during his 2014 campaign, opted out of public campaign financing, and his campaign said Tuesday that it has already filed paperwork with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance again declining to participate in campaign finance expenditure limits.
"The governor is proud to have the strong support of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and will finance his campaign in accordance with state regulations and without using public dollars," Pitman said in a statement.
Lively said he didn't expect Baker to agree to primary campaign spending limits, but believes that the governor's sizable war chest would be better used supporting Republican candidates down ballot.
"Frankly, if he's got all that money, he should follow this limit and if he's so popular why can't he beat me by matching the funds with this amount of money and give the rest of that money to the other candidates that are running. Let's get the whole ticket elected, the conservatives not the liberals," Lively said.
Lively has raised a total of $70,149 since Dec. 1 when he filed a statement of his intent to run for governor with state campaign finance authorities, and had a balance of just $11,695 in his account at the end of April. By comparison, Baker raised $217,538 in just the last two weeks of April, and had $8 million in his campaign account at the end of last month.
Lively said that he's confident that with public financing and private donations he can put together enough money to run a campaign. "Grassroots beats money every time," he said.
After securing nearly 27.7 percent of the delegate vote at the GOP convention in Worcester, Lively said that 11,008 certified signatures for his campaign had been reported to the Elections Division as of Tuesday afternoon, well over the 10,000 threshold required to qualify for the ballot.
Lively was scheduled to be at the Boston Public Library later Monday night for a forum on gun control with the two Democratic candidates for governor. The event is sponsored by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Alumni of New England, whose members support the effort to pass so-called "red flag" legislation.
Baker was not planning to attend, and is scheduled to speak at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce annual dinner at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
His campaign gave organizers a statement to read at the start of the forum, and the governor also met privately last Friday in his State House office with about nine alumni of the Florida high school that was the site of a mass shooting earlier this year.
Democrat Jay Gonzalez criticized Baker for skipping the gun forum and for failing to take a clear position on the "red flag" bill that House Speaker Robert DeLeo plans to bring forward for a vote in the House this month.
"While I will be participating in an important forum on gun violence tonight, sponsored by local alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Governor Baker is refusing to participate. Instead, he believes it is more important to rub elbows with Boston’s business elite just two miles down the road. Charlie Baker’s priorities are way off," Gonzalez said in a statement.
Lively said he intended to present the "counter-argument" to the Democrats on Tuesday night.
"I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I think the perspectives that are likely to be offered there tonight are wrongheaded. They take us in the wrong direction. They essentially invalidate the constitution, the premise of the Second Amendment, so I'm there to present the counter-argument," Lively said.
- Conservative Pastor Qualifies To Challenge Mass. Gov. Baker In GOP Primary
- Scott Lively On His Campaign For Governor
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