Baker, Warren cruise to second terms

Trump was undercurrent in both races

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

REPUBLICAN GOV. CHARLIE BAKER will return to the corner office in January, resoundingly winning reelection Tuesday night after campaigning on a message of bipartisanship.

Baker defeated Needham Democrat and former state budget chief Jay Gonzalez to earn a second four-year term. With about 45 percent of precincts reporting around 10:45 p.m., Baker had 68 percent of the vote to Gonzalez’s 32 percent.

Massachusetts voters also sent Sen. Elizabeth Warren to a second stint in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and now attention on the state’s senior senator will intensify as she embarks on a six-year term while weighing a 2020 White House run.

Warren cruised to victory over Republican Rep. Geoff Diehl, who built his campaign against the Cambridge Democrat around the notion that she would abandon Massachusetts and spend the first years of her second term more focused on running for president.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, flanked by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez on the right and lieutenant governor candidate Quentin Palfrey on the left. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

The governor’s campaign staff traded high-fives in the halls of Hynes Convention Center after the Associated Press called the race for Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito as polls closed at 8 p.m., bringing an abrupt end to the contest the incumbent had been favored to win.

“The people of the Commonwealth like what we do and how we do it — so much so, they gave us a big win and the rest of the night off,” Baker said after taking the stage to AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll.)”

He promised a “collaborative, purposeful and humble approach to governing” over the next four years. “And that’s going to be non-stop, pedal-to-the-metal, let-it-rock,” Baker said.

The first Republican governor elected to a second term since Bill Weld in 1994, Baker, whose popularity did not boost many other Republican candidates, ran a campaign that stressed the relationships he’s built with Democratic lawmakers and municipal officials.

This was Gonzalez’s first run for office and the third consecutive gubernatorial election with Baker’s name on the ballot – he lost to Deval Patrick in 2010 before edging Martha Coakley in 2014.

Amid an election cycle where Democrats nationally sought to mobilize voters in hopes of pushing back against the Trump administration, Gonzalez — who knocked Baker for what he described as a “status quo” approach to governing, and sought to tie him to President Donald Trump and the national Republican Party — remained unknown to 30 percent of voters in a MassINC poll conducted less than two weeks before the election.

“It’s not exactly the result we were hoping for, but we gave it one hell of a run, didn’t we?” Gonzalez said in his concession speech.

Gonzalez’s remarks were broadcast live at the Baker party, where guests cheered when he thanked Baker for his service to Massachusetts and congratulated him on his reelection.

“In a time of divisiveness and incivility in our national politics, Gov. Baker also deserves credit and our thanks for the civil, respectful and collaborative approach he has taken to governing,” Gonzalez said.

Baker said Gonzalez made the race about issues, not personalities. Addressing his supporters after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Baker said there is more work to be done around opioids, transportation, education, climate change, housing, economic development and health care but did not delve into specifics.

With no GOP challengers in Massachusetts successful in their bids against incumbent Democrat constitutional officers, Baker and Polito were the lone Republicans elected to statewide office Tuesday. They will again be tasked with working with a state Legislature controlled by Democrat supermajorities.

Will Keyser, a senior adviser to the Baker campaign, said it was the governor’s “bipartisan strength” and the “momentum of the past four years” that propelled the campaign.

“People should expect the same bipartisan approach to problem solving that they saw in the past four years,” Keyser said.

At the Fairmont Copley Plaza, Warren did not directly address her intention to take a “hard look” at the 2020 presidential campaign during her victory speech, but did tell supporters, “I make you this promise: we are just getting started.”

Promising to “deliver the change this country deserves,” Warren flagged the problems she sees in Washington.

“Our government is still captured by the wealthy and the well connected and the economy is still rigged against working people, women and communities of color,” she said. “Our Supreme Court is still packed with right-wing activists who believe that the wealthy and the well connected should get to call the shots. And Donald Trump still practices the dark art of ruling by fear, fear whipped up to turn hardworking Americans against hardworking Americans.”

A central prong of Diehl’s argument against Warren was that the senator has her eyes trained on the White House and uses the U.S. Senate seat to promote herself more than to benefit Massachusetts.

“You’re running for president. Everyone knows it at this point,” Diehl said in a debate last month, adding, “You’ve been traveling so extensively around the country that I wonder if sometimes you know where the Massachusetts zip code is.”

Though voters apparently didn’t buy Diehl’s argument and returned Warren to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, polling suggests Bay Staters are not too keen on the idea of their senior senator seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

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Katie Lannan

State House News Service
Meet the Author
A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll conducted in late October reported only 17 percent of voters in Massachusetts said Warren should run, and 68 percent said she should not. Given a choice between having Warren or former Gov. Deval Patrick run for president, 51.4 percent said last month they would rather see Patrick run.

Still, 52 percent of likely voters said they approve of the job Warren has done in the Senate, and almost 55 percent have a favorable view of the Cambridge Democrat, compared to 38 percent who see her unfavorably.