Baker pulls switcheroo in Taunton

Sometimes Mr. Fix-it becomes more of a fixer.

Gov. Charlie Baker was the latter on Monday when he appointed Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. as the interim register of probate in Bristol County. Less than an hour later, Republican state Rep. Shauna O’Connell of Taunton announced a run for mayor.

The switcheroo appeared to catch everyone except those involved by surprise. As recently as Thursday, Hoye, who faced no opponent, said he was planning to run for reelection as mayor. He said he was waiting for an aide to return from vacation before he filed his nomination papers.

With the deadline for filing nomination papers 5 p.m. today, O’Connell is likely to be the only candidate for mayor, although candidates need only 25 signatures to make a run. The election for mayor will take place in November.

Hoye, a Democrat, has been mayor of Taunton for eight years. He previously served on the city council and prior to that was a teacher. As mayor, he served on the governor’s Opioid Task Force. In announcing his decision to take the job as interim register of probate, Hoye said he wanted to spend more time with his family. The next election for register of probate is in 2020.

O’Connell, who described Hoye as a friend, has been the state rep from Taunton since 2010. She is very conservative and some have suggested Baker would be better off with her out of the Legislature.

Gus Bickford, the chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, condemned Baker’s decision to time Hoye’s appointment so Taunton mayoral candidates would have only one day to take the necessary steps to run. He called the move “undemocratic and the kind of tactic preferred by dictators.”

“It should come as no surprise that minutes after Baker’s announcement, his right-wing ally released a prepared statement announcing her candidacy for the mayor’s office,” Bickford said in a statement. “These kinds of backroom deals disenfranchise voters and undermine our electoral process.”

Baker is not averse to backroom deals, but they don’t always go as planned. Last year, then-Berkshire County district attorney David Capeless stepped down 10 months early and Baker appointed his top aide, Paul Caccaviello, as the interim DA. Capeless, who took out nomination papers to keep everyone guessing, acknowledged he stepped down to give his aide the benefit of incumbency heading into the election. They plan went awry when Andrea Harrington defeated Caccaviello.



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