Toppling Baker top of mind for Dems

3 candidates vying to lead the party

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY in Massachusetts is riding high. Heading into the election just two weeks away, party members control the entire congressional delegation, are looking to add to their dominance in the Legislature, and have a lock on four of the six constitutional offices.

It’s those two unclaimed constitutional offices for governor and lieutenant governor that are nagging at party leaders, and prompting Bob Massie and Mike Lake to challenge Gus Bickford for the party’s chairmanship in an election that will take place two weeks after the November 3 national election.

The big question mark in the race for state party chair is how to take out Gov. Charlie Baker in 2022 if he runs for office again, or Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito if the governor steps aside.

Polito would be the far easier challenge. Baker has brought her into the public eye during the coronavirus pandemic, designating her as co-chair of the state’s reopening committee and giving her a platform where she can interact regularly with the press. But she still remains in Baker’s shadow, the understudy waiting for her chance.

Baker, meanwhile, gives little indication which way he is leaning. He still seems to enjoy his job and, amazingly, seems that rare politician who is hard to define politically. President Trump calls him a RINO and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr calls him Tall Deval, but liberal Democrats still chafe at his reluctance to raise taxes and his refusal to extend the eviction moratorium.

Baker has even navigated the Trump tilt of the state Republican Party without missing a beat. After Trump partisans seized control of the party, Baker pulled his fundraising operation out and coordinated the setup of a super PAC that has raised more than $1.5 million and spent $600,000 on a wide assortment of both Democratic and Republican candidates.

Bickford, who came into office in 2016 promising to oust Baker, hasn’t had much success. He has tried just about everything, slamming him for privatizing services at the MBTA, for failing to criticize Trump enough, and, in the wake of four derailments, for not personally riding the T to experience what riders are experiencing.

None of the attacks did much damage, although Baker earlier this year did start riding the T into Boston from his home in Swampscott. He’s even put his experience on the T to good use, urging riders to get back on board. “I can’t think of a less risky activity,” he said.

Neither Massie or Lake have laid out a specific game plan for taking out Baker if he decides to run again, but it’s clearly on their minds.

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.

“We have to make sure the next governor is prepared to rebuild Massachusetts in a way that helps everyone in the Commonwealth,” Lake, a two-time former statewide candidate for office who runs the global non-profit Leading Cities, told State House News.

Massie, who has run for statewide office twice, told Politico that a lot has changed over the last four years. “It’s not the same world, it’s not the same America, it’s not the same Massachusetts. And I just don’t think the party is doing enough to bring new people in and new energy, young people and so forth, but also to meet those challenges,” Massie said. “As long as the party is still unclear about structures or still battling internal issues, it’s going to be harder to beat [Baker].”