Baker leaving office, but still campaigning

Using endorsements, super PAC to push his political brand

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER is nearing the end of his two terms in office, but he’s still out there campaigning.

On Wednesday, he gathered across from the State House with his old boss, former governor Bill Weld, to lend support for the candidacy of Anthony Amore for state auditor.

He also endorsed Jesse Brown, a veteran from Plymouth, in his bid to unseat US Rep. William Keating in Congress.

He heads to Franklin on Thursday for a business roundtable discussion with Rep. Shawn Dooley of Norfolk, who is trying to oust incumbent Democratic Sen. Becca Rausch of Needham.

And a super PAC with close ties to Baker is beginning its push toward the November 8 election, spending nearly $130,000 supporting 11 Republicans, four Democrats, and one Independent running for legislative positions.

Baker is the rare politician today who embraces the middle. He’s largely shunned by the right and the left, but nevertheless enjoys enormous popularity in Massachusetts. A poll released by the MassINC Polling Group on Thursday indicated 67 percent of Massachusetts voters view him favorably.

The governor’s support for a candidate doesn’t assure victory, but it does prompt voters to give the candidate another look.

Rausch tried to downplay Baker’s endorsement of Dooley, whom she has portrayed as a conservative extremist, by pointing to Baker’s endorsement of Thomas Hodgson, the sheriff of Bristol County and a strong supporter of Donald Trump.

Some say the Hodgson endorsement runs against Baker’s brand. Others say the two have a lot in common on policing and public safety. Baker said endorsements for him aren’t always about ideology but communication.

“There are a lot of people I’ve supported over the years, Democrats and Republicans by the way, who I don’t agree with,” Baker said. “I think for me, it’s more about can you have a conversation with somebody? Are you going to get what they believe when you talk to them? Are they going to be the person that tells you straight up what they think? And Tom has always been that kind of guy.”

The Massachusetts Majority super PAC is an extension of the Baker political philosophy. Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of people running for office as long as they don’t coordinate with the candidates.

The super PAC spent $171,432 supporting 12 Democrats and three Republicans in their respective primaries, and all 15 emerged victorious. It had more than $1.4 million on hand heading into the general election to support what its chairman, Greg Lisciotti, called “a bipartisan slate of political centrists.”

The super PAC’s latest campaign filing indicates it raised another $95,000, including $25,000 from Wayfair co-chair Steven Conine and his wife Alexi; $25,000 from car dealer Herb Chambers; $5,000 from Mike Kennealy, Baker’s secretary of housing and economic development; $10,000 from venture capitalist (and former MBTA general manager) Brian Shortsleeve; and $25,000 from SPS New England, a contractor that on Wednesday was selected as the low bidder on a $15.3 million Massachusetts Department of Transportation contract to make repairs to the Sumner, Callahan, Ted Williams, and Thomas P. O’Neill tunnels.

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 super PAC spent nearly $130,000 on direct mail advertising. The three biggest beneficiaries were Republican Sens. Patrick O’Connor of Weymouth ($20,461) and Bruce Tarr of Gloucester ($18,764), followed by Democratic Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport ($12,538).

The rest of the money was divvied up between nine Republican incumbent state reps facing Democratic challengers, three Democratic reps facing Republican or unenrolled challengers, and one Independent facing Republican and unenrolled challengers.