Baker election investments yield few gains

Super PAC’s big bet on Norfolk sheriff Jerry McDermott fails

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER invested a lot of personal endorsements and about $900,000 in super PAC funds in mostly Republican Massachusetts political races, but the returns on Tuesday were fairly modest.

The number of Republicans holding seats in the Senate is likely to drop from four to three while the House showed little overall change. Baker could argue his efforts helped stave off additional losses in a state where Democrats turned out in great numbers for Joe Biden.

Of 29 candidates Baker and his affiliated super PAC supported, 20 won, seven lost, and two are still in races too close to call. Twenty of the candidates were incumbents, who typically win in Massachusetts elections.

The biggest bet of the Baker-affiliated super PAC, which is called Massachusetts Majority, was on Jerry McDermott, the Republican sheriff of Norfolk County. The super PAC spent $165,071 supporting McDermott , but he was trounced by DemocratPatrick McDermott (no relation), who was most recently register of probate in Norfolk County and previously a Quincy city councilor. The stakes were high in the race because of all the jobs the sheriff controls.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Patrick McDermott defeated Jerry McDermott by a 61-39 margin. Patrick McDermott won the more heavily populated communities in the county, including Quincy, Braintree, Weymouth, Randolph, and Milton.

The super PAC backed two Republican incumbents in the Senate – Sens. Patrick O’Connor of Weymouth and Ryan Fattman of Worcester – who prevailed over their challengers. The PAC also backed Republican Matthew Kelly of Franklin, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Becca Rausch of Needham.

The Baker-affiliated super PAC did not support Republican Sen. Dean Tran of Fitchburg, whose race against political newcomer John Cronin officially remains undecided, although Cronin appears to be the likely winner. Cronin focused his campaign on the full Senate’s decision in March to discipline Tran for using State House staff to do campaign work. The Senate voted to strip Tran of his leadership title, kick the senator out of his State House office, and require him to communicate with staff only by email.

In the House, the Baker-affiliated PAC supported 13 Republican incumbents, seven Republican challengers, a Democrat incumbent, and an Independent incumbent. All of the Republican incumbents won except one – Rep. William Crocker of Barnstable. Four of the challengers lost, two won (Steven Xiarhos of Barnstable and Kelly Pease of Westfield), and one was in a race too close to call (Republican James Harrington of Ludlow versus Democrat Jacob Oliveira, also of Ludlow).

Both the Democratic incumbent, Gerald Parisella of Beverly, and the Independent incumbent, Susanna Whipps of Athol, won.

The super PAC also backed Stephanie Fattman, the register of probate in Worcester County. Fattman fended off a challenge from long-time employee John Dolan, who decisively won Worcester by a 2-1 margin but failed to gain traction in most of the rest of the county. The vote split was 54-46 for Fattman.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The PAC also backed Democrat Thomas Hoye, who fended off a challenge from an Independent. Baker in 2019 appointed Hoye, the former mayor of Taunton, to the vacant probate job in Bristol County on an interim basis, which allowed then-Republican rep Shaunna O’Connell to jump into the race for Taunton mayor just prior to the filing deadline and get a headstart on the rest of the field.

The other candidate the PAC supported was Nancy Stanton-Cross of Westport, who ran for county commissioner in Bristol County. Returns indicated Stanton-Cross came in third in a tight three-way race, although an official winner has not been declared.