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Gov. Charlie Baker has won four more years in the Corner Office.
The popular Republican incumbent on Tuesday easily fended off a challenge from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez.
The Associated Press called the race at 8 p.m., just as polls closed. With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Baker was up on Gonzalez, 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent.
In his victory speech, an energetic Baker thanked the people of Massachusetts.
"You told us to focus on the work, not the noise," he said. "To work across the aisle. To chase the best ideas wherever they come from. And to find common ground. To fix the stuff that’s broken, especially the difficult and messy stuff. To treat your money like it was ours. And to make sure government works for those that need it most." Baker pledged to continue working in a bipartisan manner, and said he knows there's still much left to do.
Baker's re-election in liberal Massachusetts keeps the executive branch in GOP hands, as Democrats' nationwide hoped for a so-called Blue Wave to take over control of the U.S. House, and change leadership in several state capitols.
But Baker never seemed truly threatened by Gonzalez, at least according to public opinion polls. Surveys showed a clear majority of Massachusetts voters hold a favorable view of the incumbent, and that that support extends beyond Republicans. The final WBUR poll of the race, released last week, found that more registered Democrats planned to vote for Baker than for Gonzalez.
That crossover appeal is key in Massachusetts, where most voters are unenrolled, and just 10 percent are registered Republicans.
Gonzalez, a former administration and finance secretary in Gov. Deval Patrick's administration, struggled with name recognition, as nearly a third of the state's likely voters had never heard of him, according to the pre-election WBUR survey. In addition, Gonzalez and running mate Quentin Palfrey lagged significantly behind Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito in fundraising.
In his concession speech, Gonzalez said he's proud of the grassroots campaign he and his supporters ran. He told them to get a good night's sleep and wake up even more determined to go after "a progressive vision for Massachusetts."
He also thanked Baker. "In a time of divisiveness and incivility in our national politics," he said, "Governor Baker also deserves credit and our thanks for the civil, respectful and collaborative approach he has taken to governing."
In making his case for four more years, Baker — himself a former administration and finance secretary, as well — touted his administration's stewardship of state tax dollars, management of the beleaguered MBTA, procurement of offshore wind power and response to the deadly opioid crisis.
Gonzalez countered that Baker is a "status quo governor" who is not ambitious enough in transforming the transportation system, investing in education or transitioning to clean energy. The Democrat called for tax hikes for the state's wealthiest residents and colleges and universities to fund his spending plans.
Baker said Gonzalez's tax-and-spending proposals are not realistic.
President Trump loomed large in this race, as did another Republican: U.S. Senate candidate Geoff Diehl. Though Baker says he did not vote for Trump, and has criticized him and his administration on several occasions, Gonzalez argued that Baker has not been forceful enough in pushing back against the president and the national Republican Party's agenda.
Gonzalez also knocked Baker for backing the entire GOP slate of candidates in Massachusetts, including Diehl, who is a vocal Trump supporter. At one point, during one of the candidates' three televised debates, Baker said he hadn't made a decision about voting for Diehl; he later said he "misspoke" and that he was indeed backing the Republican U.S. Senate nominee.
But Baker was able to easily top another Trump supporter in the primary, controversial pastor Scott Lively, and then Gonzalez here in the general election.
Gonzalez himself won the Democratic primary, over environmentalist Bob Massie, by 29 percentage points.
Baker's decisive win over Gonzalez is a far cry from the governor's initial general election victory in 2014. In that race, he topped Democratic nominee Martha Coakley by just 40,000 votes — the closest governor's contest in 50 years — and Coakley didn't concede until the following morning.
2014 was Baker's second run for the Corner Office. In 2010, during a GOP "Red Wave" nationally, Baker fell short against Patrick, the Democratic incumbent.
This segment aired on November 7, 2018.
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