Thursday, July 30, 2015

Charlie Baker: Red State Governing In Blue Mass

Of all the election victories in 2014, the only one I was the most worried about was. . .Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.

He is liberal on social issues. During the 2010 Gubernatorial election, when he ran for the first time against incumbent "Mr. Governor" Deval Patrick, Baker announced that he was "to the left of Obama" on social issues. At the time, President Obama was opposed to gay marriage, but Baker had already embraced it. Four years later, and Obama caved on the issue, in large part because of his big-mouthed Vice President.

Baker effectively removed all the hot-button social issues and embraced the liberal positions on some issues.

To his credit, Baker attended the latest meeting of the Republican Governors' Association shortly after his election. He also prepared a budget without raising taxes or fees. He also fired the liberal racketeer Jonathan Gruber, who gleefully shared with like-minded Big Government academics that they lied about Obamacare because of the stupidity of the American voters".

He has some conservative wins under his belt, I suppose. Democrats definitely liked him because he is a "numbers guy". One conservative shared with me privately that he would not vote for him or endorse him, because he was basically a Democrat. Another committed Republican offered that Baker is a moderate, definitely not a RINO.
Governor Charlie Baker (R-Massachusetts)

The Sentinel's Peter Lucas offered and interesting and positive take on Baker:

Here is why veteran Statehouse observers are high on Charlie Baker: No politician in modern Massachusetts history has come to the governor's office better prepared or more qualified than Charlie Baker. And it is beginning to show, not only because he has scored high in the public-opinion polls -- polls are fleeting -- but because, even as a Republican in a sea of Democrats, he has had an exceptionally successful beginning.   

Baker came to Beacon Hill experienced and ready to govern. Not afraid to work with his colleagues but also get down to business, he recognized the need to work with a Democratic legislature, no matter how hard it would be to press for real reforms.

Lucas is unsparing in his criticism of the previous Governor.

Recall how his predecessor, Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick, stumbled around for months when he was first elected. A terrific campaigner, Patrick had never held any state office but came from the corporate boards of Coca-Cola and Texaco. He had zero Statehouse experience and was too proud, or arrogant, to admit it. While he was popular with the public, he was never popular at the Statehouse. Democrats in the Legislature, let alone Republicans, were never comfortable with Patrick. He came in with a chip on his shoulder and left with two.

"Terrific campaigner", just like the current Commander in Chief Barack Obama, who is chiefly not interested in commanding anything. Patrick was a big government liberal who loved to lambaste Republicans for their spendthrift ways during the Bush II Administration. Of course, Obama has outdone the spending sprees of his predecessor, but at least Baker has done better than his. Lucas points out that Patrick was tone deaf to the optics essential to politics, even in one-party state Massachusetts. He tricked the corner office with lavish curtains and other frillsBaker does not work in the Big Office, but settled for humble trappings and reaches out to everyone.

Politics is not brain surgery. If you treat people with dignity and respect, you tend to get dignity and respect in return. That seems to be Charlie Baker's basic approach to the governor's job. It may be part of his character or something he learned along the way.

Wow. What a concept!

Certainly, the eight years he spent in state government at the Cabinet level -- first as secretary of Health and Human Services and then as secretary of Administration and Finance -- working for former Republican Govs. Bill Weld and the late Paul Cellucci, helped shape the way Baker governs. Both Republicans were able to build a good working rapport with the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, and Baker learned from that. Also, in the private sector, Baker headed Harvard Pilgrim Health Care at a crucial time and is credited with turning that money-losing organization around. 

Baker the businessman is cooking up good compromise in Massachusetts. Some conservative partisans are already upset with Baker because he has not turned the state around from its deep-blue, nearly socialist hue. One thing at a time.

 "His government and private-sector experience is absolutely invaluable," Weld said of his protégé. "He knows what he thinks. He knows what he's doing. He's comfortable in his own skin." Weld said he admires the way Baker took on the MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority] winter shutdown crisis and the need for MBTA reform. In some ways, the crisis was similar to the one Weld faced in 1991, when, upon becoming governor, he was faced with a $2 billion deficit left by outgoing Democrat Gov. Michael Dukakis. Like Weld, Baker immediately established a smooth working relationship with the Democratic legislative leadership. Baker gets along with both better than Rosenberg and DeLeo get along with each other.

Fascinating. The Republican governor works better with both Democratic leaders than with each other. This three-way alliance could help Baker and the Republican Party in the future.

Without much fuss or fanfare, Baker closed the $760 million budget deficit that Patrick left him and then dealt deftly with the state's annual $38 billion budget. Baker signed legislation sending $200 million to the cities and towns for road repairs, and got both legislative leaders to set up a five-member MBTA control board. He established a hiring freeze and a program for early retirement for 5,000 state employees, launched a program to deal with family homelessness, and has promised to take on the state's opiate crisis. He smartly has taken a thoughtful wait-and-see attitude toward the Boston 2024 Olympics, and has halted the questionable expansion of the convention center in South Boston.  He works the job well. He does not look down with disdain on reporters, the way Patrick did, and is open and available. He is a workhorse, not a show horse. He has changed the atmosphere at the Statehouse for the better. He shows up for work, says what he means and means what he says. And he won't raise taxes. So what's not to like?    

Interesting comments all around. Let's hope that this recipe for Red State Governorship in blue states like Massachusetts will work out for the long-term. Boston has declined its bid for the 2024 Olympics. Conservatives from "Red Mass Group" have viewed his tenure positively, too.

And. . .Baker won't raise taxes. What's not to like?

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