Baker-linked PAC targets Dem primary
Helps newcomer in race for Governor’s Council
A SUPER PAC with close ties to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker paid nearly $15,000 for a mailing supporting a political newcomer competing in the Democratic primary for a Governor’s Council seat representing the Worcester area.
The Massachusetts Majority PAC is backing Padraic Rafferty in his Democratic primary race against Paul DePalo. DePalo ran unsuccessfully for the position in 2018, losing to incumbent Republican Jennie Caissie by five percentage points. Rafferty donated $500 to Caissie in 2016.
Caissie, an early supporter of Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, left the post in 2019 when Baker nominated her for the clerk magistrate job at the Dudley District Court. Her appointment was approved by the Governor’s Council on a 5-2 vote. She was the lone Republican on the Governor’s Council and no Republican is running to replace her, so the winner of the September 1 Democratic primary will most likely win the position.
The Massachusetts Majority PAC, which can raise unlimited amounts of money but cannot coordinate efforts with the candidates it supports, has a track record of backing both Republicans and Democrats. That suggests its goal is to build a moderate base of support for a governor who is not comfortable with liberal Democrats or Donald Trump Republicans, who control the Massachusetts Republican Party.
Few members of the public are familiar with the Governor’s Council, an obscure body that approves pardons and commutations as well as gubernatorial appointments for judges, clerk-magistrates, public administrators, parole board members, and other officials. The council has eight elected members and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who chairs the body, serves ex-officio.
While Rafferty himself is a newcomer to politics, he works at the politically active Worcester law firm of Eden Rafferty, where his uncle Richard Rafferty is a partner.
Richard Rafferty represents the State Police union. Members of his law firm have donated $9,000 to Polito since 2015. They have also donated to Caissie, Baker, and Attorney General Maura Healey.
Padraic Rafferty said he made a donation to Caissie’s campaign in 2016 because he “felt her opponent in that race had zero qualifications or credentials for the position, where a councilor’s vote may not only significantly impact the legal system, but the community. For the record, I have never registered as a Republican in my life and am a proud Democrat who shares the party’s core values. I’m not a partisan ideologue. This seat should be above partisan politics; instead, an elected councilor should review a judicial nomination based on their qualifications, temperament, integrity, and ability to apply the law fairly, justly, and equally. ”
DePalo said he worries that his opponent and the Massachusetts Majority PAC are trying to buy the election. According to campaign finance records, Rafferty has loaned his campaign $25,000. He spent $43,297 through the end of July and the PAC spent another $15,000 on a direct mail campaign. Rafferty had a $17,483 balance going into August.
His donors include the political action committees representing the Massachusetts Chief Probation Officers, the Massachusetts Correctional Officers Federated Union, and the Massachusetts State Police Commissioned Officers.
DePalo, who has been endorsed by many prominent Democrats in the district, spent $6,412 through the end of the July and entered August with a balance of $3,299.
“I’m clearly the candidate of substance,” DePalo said. “The fact that a Republican PAC is getting involved with a Democratic primary speaks to the strategy.”DePalo, an attorney and special education teacher, has the support of most elected Democrats in the district. He said his primary reason for running is building greater diversity in the judiciary, appointing mental health experts to the parole board, and improving the juvenile justice system.