Election Preview: Massachusetts Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Election: September 4, 2018
General Election: November 6, 2018

220px-charlie_baker_official_portrait
Governor Charlie Baker (R – MA)

While Massachusetts remains a liberal-leaning state, Republican Charlie Baker has the highest favorability ratings among any governor in the United States. Baker is now running for re-election after he won in 2014 when he turned a traditional blue state red for the first time since Mitt Romney was elected governor in 2002. Prior to his election, Baker served as Massachusetts secretary of administration and finance in 1992, and health and human services secretary from 1994 to 1998 under Governor Bill Weld. After leaving government, he became CEO of a physician’s group, leading them to 24 quarters of continuous profitability.

Since he was elected, Baker has consistently governed as a social liberal, while maintaining fiscally-conservative principles. He’s increased renewable energy generation while opposing offshore drilling, promoted reproductive healthcare options, oversaw the legalization and taxation of cannabis, all while managing to cut taxes. A poll from WBUR (NPR) in January 2018 found Baker with a 72-percent approval rating and only a 16-percent disapproval rating among Massachusetts residents. According to an April poll from Morning Consult, Baker is considered the most popular governor in America. Although, he will face a fringe candidate in the Republican primary. Scott Lively, a pastor known for promoting an anti-gay agenda, has attempted to label Baker as a “Republican in name only.” Baker doesn’t align himself with many main stream conservatives and regularly critiques President Donald Trump. He skipped an April 2018 fundraiser with Vice President Mike Pence, causing outrage among conservative party members and Trump supporters.

Massachusetts has a “modified” primary, meaning registered voters with no party affiliation can choose to participate in whichever party primary they want. In the Bay state, more than half of all registered voters can choose which primary they want to participate in.

With Baker’s popularity, Democrats have found it challenging to identify viable candidates. Jay Gonzalez, a former state cabinet official; Bob Massie, an entrepreneur and 2012 U.S. Senate candidate; and Setti Warren, former Newton Mayor, are the only three Democrats to declare their candidacy. All three remain largely unknown and nowhere near the Republican fundraising operation. Some Democrats, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, have crossed party lines to endorse Baker. Potential Democrats rumored to jump into the race include former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 2014 candidate for governor Joe Avellone, and State Representative Paul Mark. However, the window for committing is rapidly closing. In hypothetical polling conducted by WBUR in March 2018, Baker leads all Democratic candidates by a margin of 24 to 29 points.

The Cook Political Report, Rothenberg Political Report, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have all designated this race as “solid” or “likely” Republican.

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