Baker super PAC returns to action

A correction has been added to this story.

The super PAC affiliated with Gov. Charlie Baker skipped this year’s preliminary municipal elections, but returned to action late last week, pouring $129,020 into 17 races, including three featuring challengers seeking to oust incumbent mayors in Framingham, Attleboro, and Amesbury.

Baker’s super PAC went silent this year, prompting speculation that the governor might be winding down his political activities. But on Monday the Massachusetts Majority PAC filed paperwork indicating it had raised $911,005 this year from 42 donors and was starting to spend it on direct mail and digital advertising in the days leading up to the final election.

Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations and can spend the funds supporting or opposing candidates as long as there is no coordination between the PAC and the campaigns. 

The Massachusetts Majority PAC generally supports politically moderate Republicans and Democrats. It raises money mostly from business executives – the PAC’s two biggest donors this year were Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish and Robert Hale, CEO of Granite Telecommunications, both of whom donated $100,000. Fish has been the largest contributor to the PAC, donating $300,000 of the $3.3 million raised since May 2019.

The super PAC spent $9,900 on direct mail and digital advertising backing 76-year-old Charlie Sisitsky in his race to unseat incumbent Yvonne Spicer in Framingham. Sisitsky topped Spicer by a 2-1 margin in the preliminary election, and appears to be in a strong position to oust the first Black woman popularly elected to a mayor’s post in state history.

The PAC spent $8,589 backing Todd McGhee in his bid to oust Mayor Paul Heroux in Attleboro and contributed $4,445 for direct mail and digital campaigns promoting  Republican state Rep. James Kelcourse in his challenge to incumbent Kassandra Gove in Amesbury. [This paragraph has been corrected to make clear that Kelcourse is currently serving in the Legislature.]

The initial 2021 report of the Massachusetts Majority PAC showed no involvement in the race for mayor in Boston between City Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George. 

The super PAC is supporting 14 incumbents – 12 mayors and two city councilors. The incumbent mayors include Carlo DeMaria in Everett ($5,530), Sefatia Romeo Theken in Gloucester ($7,384), Michael Nicholson in Gardner ($4,0770), William Sapelli in Agawam ($7,365), Donald Humason in Westfield ($9,567), Dean Mazzarella in Leominster ($8,621), Arthur Vigeant in Marlborough ($6,408), Robert Sullivan in Brockton ($14,268), Stephen DiNatale in Fitchburg ($5,815), Nicole LaChapelle in Easthampton ($4,277), Paul Coogan in Fall River ($13,477), and Scott Galvin in Woburn ($2,805). 

Romeo Theken is facing a tough fight in Gloucester. She came in a distant second in the preliminary election and is trying to make a comeback to overtake City Councilor Greg Verga in the final.

DeMaria is facing a challenge from City Councilor Fred Capone in Everett. DeMaria came in first in the three-candidate preliminary election, but the candidate who was eliminated is now backing Capone.

Nicholson, who is running for reelection as mayor in Gardner, is a Republican at odds with his own state party, which puts him in good company with Baker. Nicholson, who is facing a challenge this year from retired attorney Peter Sargent, last year backed Democratic Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik for reelection over his Republican challenger, prompting Jim Lyons, the head of the state GOP, to dismiss the endorsement as “classic career politician hackery.” Lyons calls Baker a RINO – a Republican in name only.

Donna Colorio, a Worcester city councilor whom Massachusetts Majority helped get elected in 2019, received the most financial support from the PAC, a total of $15,969 in direct mail and digital advertising. James Cote received $516 in digital advertising support from the PAC for his run for city council in Watertown.

 BRUCE MOHL 

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Top state priorities: House leaders unveiled a bill directing where $3.65 billion in one-time federal and surplus state money should go. The stakes are high because rarely does the state have so much new money to throw at problems, but deciding which problems to address has not been easy. At six public hearings on the spending plan, close to $30 billion in initiatives were proposed.

The House plan would spend the biggest chunks of money – more than $750 million each – on health and human services, workforce training, and economic development. It would spend another $600 million on housing, $350 million on environment and climate change mitigation, and $265 million on education. 

— Another  initiative would direct $500 million in retroactive bonuses to low-income workers who worked during the pandemic. The bonuses would range between $500 and $2,000, depending on how many workers qualify. The pay would be available to public and private workers, including store clerks, nursing home aides, and bus drivers. Read more.

No more meal-shaming: Gov. Charlie Baker signs legislation barring school officials from singling out students who cannot afford lunches. The measure will also prod more school district to offer all of their students free lunches. Read more.

OPINION

Boxborough backlash: Mark White, a town official in Boxborough, condemns the Select Board as cowardly and reckless for asking the FBI to investigate the police department. He says Police Chief Warren Ryder deserves more after 25 years on the job. Read more.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker supports Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins’s plan for Mass. and Cass, which involves using an empty building at his jail as a courtroom and treatment facility for the homeless people being told to pack up their tents. (WBUR) Tompkins discussed his plan on The Codcast this week. (CommonWealth)

Lawmakers ride buses to demonstrate in support of increased access to reproductive health care – including medication abortion – on college campuses. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

City officials handed out notices to people in the tent encampments at Mass. and Cass telling them it’s time to leave the area. (Boston Globe

The Worcester home of Robert Goddard, a physicist credited with inventing the liquid-fueled rocket, is for sale. (MassLive)

The owner of St. John Cantius Church in Northampton rejects a bid by the town to buy the building and use it to house people facing displacement or other challenges. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Facebook algorithms were designed to promote angrier posts more prone to spreading misinformation, newly released documents show. (Washington Post)

House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal says at a West Springfield event that he anticipates President Biden getting a budget deal on his desk by the end of the week. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George tangled in their last mayoral debate, with Essaibi George charging that her rival has not been as engaged as she has on the crisis at Mass. and Cass and Wu pushing back on that. (Boston Herald) They also clashed on the city’s waterfront zoning plan, with Wu supporting Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s decision to withdraw it while Essaibi George called that move “irresponsible government.” (Boston Globe

Former Boston police commissioner William Gross, who is spearheading a super PAC that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Essaibi George, did not vote in the September preliminary election that got her into the final election. (Dorchester Reporter

EDUCATION

Trouble at Brockton High School, where metal detectors have been put in place because of concern about guns being brought to school and a new principal has been put in charge. (Enterprise News

A teacher at Concord-Carlisle High School is put on leave after allegedly using a racial slur while coaching a football game. (MassLive)

The Chicago Public Schools will spend $7.5 million to expand an anti-violence program for teens in “high-risk situations” and connect with them with weekly therapy and dedicated mentors. (Chalkbeat)

The culinary arts vocational program at Fall River’s Durfee High School is launching a restaurant open to the public. (Herald News)

ARTS/CULTURE

A Gardner resident who participated in the Boston Tea Party is commemorated 250 years later. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

The president of a Massachusetts trucking company is pleading guilty to federal charges related to a 2019 crash that killed seven motorcycle riders in New Hampshire. (Associated Press)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A new study says the state has vastly underestimated the amount of methane gas leaking into the environment from leaking natural gas pipes. (Boston Globe

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Police officers’ social media posts – including several in Massachusetts – raise concerns about bias. (USA Today)

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell touts new data showing a drop in violent crime in the city. (Standard-Times)

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy responds to Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby’s opposition to the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which is getting serious attention in Washington. (Media Nation)