Charter defeat is a winning issue for Baker
After the Senate voted Wednesday to keep the state’s cap on charter schools in place, the head of one of the state’s teachers unions told the State House News Service, “I’m doing super-well right now.” But the unions aren’t the only ones feeling super good after Wednesday’s charter vote. Charlie Baker, the Republican candidate for governor, also has to be feeling pretty good right now. The state Senate just handed him a stick to take to Democrats in cities across Massachusetts.
Cities made the difference between Scott Brown ’s 2010 Senate win and Baker’s 2010 gubernatorial loss. Baker ran 14 points behind Brown in Chicopee four years ago. He was 15 points off Brown’s pace in Holyoke , 12 points back in Springfield , 12 points off in Fall River , 14 points back in New Bedford , and 11 points back in Lowell and Haverhill . Baker’s poor showing in the state’s cities drowned out Republicans’ natural advantage in the state’s suburbs.
Charlie Baker can’t win without the urban vote. He knows this, because he knows how to look at a map and read a spreadsheet. He doesn’t have to win cities across Massachusetts. But he also can’t get blown out, as he did four years ago.
Baker has drastically altered the tone of his campaign this time around, softening the angry-guy rhetoric and trying to take a number of divisive issues, from gay rights and abortion to guns and the environment, off the table.
Baker sits on the board of a charter school operator that works with high-risk children in Chelsea, Lawrence and Springfield. He had been lobbying the Legislature — albeit in hilariously unsuccessful fashion — to lift the cap on the number of charter schools the state allows. Charters largely aren’t an issue for the kinds of suburbs with high-flying school districts that form a large chunk of Baker’s political base. Charters matter most to people who live in low-performing urban districts. And on Wednesday, shortly after Senate Democrats overwhelmingly voted against charters, Baker’s campaign issued a statement calling the votes “a defeat for urban families.”
Baker’s statement said the Senate had “bowed to political pressure and handed urban families stuck in struggling schools a massive defeat by shutting down access to high performing schools. I care deeply about delivering the best possible education to every child in Massachusetts and this charter school legislation would have gone a long way in achieving that goal.”
The state’s Democratic Party has mocked what it has called “Baker’s new interest in cities,” and painted the Republican as an interloper. Wednesday’s Senate vote on charters gives Baker an issue he can hit back on, hard.
— PAUL MCMORROW
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