Baker vs Moulton: Preview of a heavyweight fight?

It has all the markings of a heavyweight match-up: The stare-downs, the accusations, the well-defined contrast in style, and the loyal camps for each side. The spat between Gov. Charlie Baker and US Rep. Seth Moulton is reverberating beyond their differences over Syrian refugee policy and could lay the groundwork for a gubernatorial battle royale in 2018.

When Baker announced his hesitancy to accept Syrian refugees without assurances about the vetting process from the federal government, Moulton went on the attack, calling out Baker by name even though Baker’s stance was far more nuanced than most other governors and certainly not a lonely voice in the wilderness.

“It’s a shame that Governor Baker doesn’t know the difference between refugees and those from whom they need refuge,” Moulton wrote on Twitter.

That brought a rebuke from Baker, who said Moulton went “straight to the partisan talking points” in his criticism. Moulton shot back that, for him, it wasn’t about politics but a stance gleaned from his military service in Iraq.

“My American values and Marine Corps experience are not ‘partisan talking points.’ @MassGovernor should know better,” he replied.

A Lowell Sun editorial criticizes Moulton for trying to score political points at Baker’s expense on Syrian refugees. The Boston Globe‘s Yvonne Abraham feels quite the opposite, saying Baker’s charge that Moulton resorted to “partisan talking points” was “beneath him.” She also says it was “ludicrous.”

Baker may be right about it being political but it’s a jacket he’ll have to wear himself. Of the 26 governors who share Baker’s views, 25 are Republicans. All of the presidential candidates calling for an end to bringing in Syrian refugees are on the Republican primary ballots. The Republican-dominated House prepares to vote on legislation that would tighten oversight of the federal program for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. So, yes, it’s very much partisan, however you want to parse it.

Which brings us to 2018. Baker is popular among all Massachusetts voters. His missteps are few since taking office and this one does not qualify for one, either. His view is shared, to a small extent, by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was with him before he wasn’t. The fact that Baker bristled at being upbraided by Moulton shows he’s cognizant of the challenge.

Moulton is a bona fide war hero who embraces traditional Massachusetts Democratic values. There’s no one else on the statewide stage right now that pundits see as a legitimate contender to take on a popular Republican governor and Moulton is as bright a rising star as Democrats could want.

The fact that the congressman, who no one will ever say lacks ambition, engaged in the battle shows he is ready for a fight, however he couches his values. He took on a sitting congressman in his own party, albeit a weakened one, and dispatched him even when a moderate Republican couldn’t.

Given Moulton’s colleagues in Washington are far more strident than Baker when it comes to the Obama administration’s decision to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, there would have been no shortage of easy, generic GOP targets for Moulton’s slings and arrows. The fact he chose to get into the ring with Baker indicates the battle has been engaged.




Lawmakers on Beacon Hill go home for the holidays and turn off the lights on a solar bill that industry officials said had to pass to avoid canceling projects and laying off workers. (CommonWealth)

The House passes a watered-down public records bill and proposes a commission to study whether the governor’s office, the Legislature, and the judicial branch should be covered by the law. (CommonWealth)

A Boston Herald editorial praises new reforms announced this week for the Department of Children and Families.

The Baker administration wants to make more liquor licenses available to aid economic revitalization efforts in city and town centers. (Boston Herald)


A seven-unit housing development proposal in Dorchester, which had the support of the Walsh administration, is approved by Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal over the objection of a the local civic group and a slew of local elected officials. (Dorchester Reporter)

Are Boston taxpayers being taken for a ride with the planned Grand Prix race in Southie? (Greater Boston)

Milton Police Chief Richard Wells is threatening to leave the job when his contract expires because he is unwilling to take a pay cut that he had agreed to in exchange for a temporary boost in pay to increase his pension. (Patriot Ledger)

Brockton officials have reached an agreement with Stonehill College in Easton for the school to pay its share of sewer fees, replacing a controversial deal that had cost the city millions of dollars. (The Enterprise)

Somerset voters at Town Meeting approved an ordinance banning the public use of marijuana. (Herald News)


MGM affirms its commitments in Springfield, vowing to spend $950 million on its casino project. (Masslive)


The presumed mastermind of the Paris terrorist attacks is confirmed dead following a raid by French police. (New York Times)

Boston activists argue that Puerto Rico was set up to fail and Congress needs to step in. (Bay State Banner.)


More than 10,000 people turn out to hear GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump at the DCU Center in Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette) T&G columnist Dianne Williamson gives her take on the Donald. Supporters hail their man with one person opining that he hasn’t seen this much excitement since the 1980s. (MassLive) James Pindell tackles the $64,000 question: Why Trump endures. (Boston Globe)  Keller@Large says the Worcester appearance showcased both the best and worst of The Donald.

A confluence of factors are setting up next year’s Massachusetts Republican presidential primary to be more than the usual footnote to the party’s nominating process. (Boston Globe)

Hillary Clinton‘s eagerness to intervene in Libya without a plan for the aftermath makes her the Democrats’ Dick Cheney, says former Mitt Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom. (Boston Globe)


Drew Weber says he has signed a letter of intent with a local group to purchase the Lowell Spinners, a Red Sox minor league team. (The Sun)

The New England Aquarium, in a study released Wednesday, says Donald Chiofaro‘s planned $1 billion redevelopment of the Harbor Garage will disrupt traffic and the flow of visitors to its waterfront facility. (Boston Herald)

Retailers do not want to be on the hook for data breaches with new chip credit cards and they’ve called in Martha Coakley to take up their fight. (Boston Business Journal)

Lyft: It’s not easy being No. 2. (Bloomberg Business)
It turns out a lot of people want L.L. Bean‘s signature clunky, rubber-soled boots — way more than the Maine company can churn out to keep up with demand. (Boston Globe)


A Lynn Item editorial wonders whether the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education merely kicked the can down the road for a year and a half by embracing a standardized test that would combine MCAS and PARCC.

The Berkshire Eagle calls on schools to focus less on testing and more on other problems facing students, such as poverty. Meanwhile, the paper cautions on lifting the cap on charter schools.

Lord Jeff’s days as the unofficial mascot of Amherst College look to be numbered, as the faculty votes to dump the moniker, whose namesake, British commander Lord Jeffrey Amherst, is believed to have intentionally given Indians smallpox-infected blankets during the French and Indian War. (Boston Globe)


Boston Mayor Marty Walsh proposes 21 as the legal age to buy cigarettes in the city. (WBUR)

The National Institutes of Health plans to retire its research chimpanzees. (Nature)


The MBTA is facing yet another budget gap and its “extraordinarily inefficient” late night service is on the block. (WBUR)

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack says the Legislature will need to raise the $1.2 billion bond appropriation for the Green Line extension if the project is going to get built. (State House News)

Wareham officials approved a plan for a medical marijuana dispensary in the town. (Standard-Times)


A study commissioned by Attorney General Maura Healey says no new natural gas pipelines are needed to keep the lights on through 2030. (CommonWealth)

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt is getting nowhere in trying to convince the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to hold a local hearing on the proposed Tennessee Gas pipeline. (Salem News)


The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission holds its first public hearing and the state’s district attorneys push back against the notion that too many people are going to jail. They say the problem is that too many people, once released from jail, return. (State House News)

Security cameras at Danvers High School show Philip Chism follow his teacher Colleen Ritzer into the women’s bathroom, where he allegedly killed her. (Salem News)


Man bites dog: The National Review wonders if Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly went too far with his book on Ronald Reagan and his attack on George Will, who panned the tome.