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Commentary: Charlie Baker's Choice For Lt. Governor

Karyn Polito, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, speaks to supporters during her primary election night rally earlier this month. (Stephan Savoia/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Karyn Polito, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, speaks to supporters during her primary election night rally earlier this month. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

Meet the lieutenant governor wannabees. Democrat Steve Kerrigan is a onetime aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy and the head of a nonprofit that helps military families. He is an openly gay political operative. Republican Karyn Polito is a one-time openly anti-gay politician from Shrewsbury.

Back in January, Polito announced that she was running for lieutenant governor with Charlie Baker by her side, a stance that can only be interpreted as an endorsement. He had eight months to find someone else, but didn’t. Polito now has three jobs: mollify far-right conservatives in the GOP who are wary of Baker; take periodic swings at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley; and try to close the gender gap.

Baker trails Coakley by 20 points among women in WBUR’s most recent tracking poll. He faced a similar gender gap running against Gov. Deval Patrick four years ago; then it was 24 points. Baker took heat in that election within his party for his running mate, openly gay former state Sen. Richard Tisei.

Not surprisingly, Kerrigan’s hero is his old boss, the late Sen. Kennedy, while Polito has spoken kindly of Allen West, an ex-congressman from Florida. West, who lost his congressional seat in 2013, once said: “If Joseph Goebbels [Nazi chief propagandist] was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine.”

Polito was quoted on the Stoughton Patch website as saying: “The Republican National Committee has no message. Colonel West has a good message. We are citizen patriots together. We need to get our country and our Commonwealth back.”

Richard Tisei, a married gay man, may not be welcome in Polito’s country or commonwealth. She repeatedly voted with legislators trying to ban gay marriage in Massachusetts following the 2003 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized it.

Here’s how a contributor to the Democratic blog Blue Mass Group cataloged her legislative record:

Polito voted for a constitutional amendment that would have defined civil marriage as exclusively heterosexual, voted against repeal of the law preventing non-resident same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts, voted against protecting transgender people under the state’s hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws, co-sponsored an anti-gay ‘parent’s rights’ bill penned by anti-LGBT [ideologue] Brian Camenker, and filed an official complaint when the Registry of Motor Vehicles began allowing transgender people to change the sex designation on their drivers license without proof of sex reassignment surgery.

Polito claims that she’s changed her views on gay marriage, and her previous support for a "right to know" law backed by an anti-abortion organization. It’s not clear why Baker and his allies believe a onetime right-wing female lawmaker would attract women voters to the GOP ticket when they could put a thoughtful, non-divisive woman in the governor’s office.

Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.

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