Did Charlie Baker win last week’s state primary?

HE WAS NOT on last week’s primary ballot, but Charlie Baker – or at least his brand of more middle-of-the-road pragmatism – had a good day at the polls, at least, ironically, in the Democratic primary. 

That was one big takeaway from the Massachusetts primary results offered up on this week’s Codcast by Samantha Gross, a State House reporter for the Boston Globe, and Liam Kerr, an organizer of the center-left policy group Priorities for Progress. 

Kerr said the “most important quote of the election” came from Cambridge state Rep. Mike Connolly, a left-leaning Democrat who was not necessarily thrilled with its outcome. “Democratic primary voters have been saying for years now that they support the moderate politics of Gov. Charlie Baker,” Connolly told Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky following Tuesday’s primary. 

That hardly seemed lost on Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey, who name-checked Baker twice in her victory speech on Tuesday night. 

The favorites of many progressive activists and organizations in Democratic statewide races either bowed out before Tuesday’s balloting or went down to defeat. “A lot of the far left,” said Kerr, has been “living in a fantasy land.” That view of state politics “just wasn’t reflected in what voters wanted and wasn’t reflected in the elections outside of JP and a couple other places,” he said, referring to Boston’s super liberal Jamaica Plain neighborhood. 

One big reason for that, Gross pointed out, is that 60 percent of voters now aren’t registered under either party banner, and these so-called “unenrolled” voters can vote in either party primary. “I think that you see that play out on the campaign trail,” she said. “You see it play out in the rhetoric that the candidates use, or at least the candidates that were successful on Tuesday night. They were able to play closer to the middle and kind of try to bring this independent brand of bipartisanship that Massachusetts voters go toward historically.” 

Another big takeaway, said Gross, is “how potentially history-making these races will be.” If Healey and her running mate, Kim Driscoll, prevail in November, they will be the first female governor-lieutenant governor duo ever elected in the country, and Healey would be the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts and first lesbian elected governor of a state. Meanwhile, Democratic attorney general nominee Andrea Campbell, if successful in November, would be the first Black woman to ever hold statewide office in Massachusetts. 

Kerr said the Republican primary for governor, meanwhile, exposed “fantasyland thinking” on the right – that businessman Chris Doughty, who pegged himself as the only electable choice, would pull off a victory and there would be a “real governor’s race” in November. Instead, Trump-loyal former state rep Geoff Diehl won, and now faces particularly steep odds in the general election. 

More than 1 million voters turned out for the primary, despite the lack of a contested Democratic race for governor, but that voter interest was accompanied by a troubling lack of clear knowledge about the races and the candidates in them. A MassINC Polling Group survey in mid-August, commissioned by Kerr’s organization, showed that nearly half of likely Democratic voters had never heard of Campbell, and more than half had never heard of Driscoll or Diana DiZoglio, who won the primary for state auditor. 

“That is a flashing red light for democracy in our state,” said Kerr, who added that we have to figure out better ways to connect voters with information on candidates, including the good quality journalism that he said is being done. 

Gross said she was struck by people arriving to cast ballots during early voting who were looking things up on their phones, still unsure about many of the races. 

“I talked to one woman who left every single race blank except for her local leaders in Quincy,” Gross said. “She did not vote for any statewide [offices]. So I think that there is some work to be done in just civic education about not only who these people are, but what they do in some of these races, particularly positions like the lieutenant governor or the auditor, where voters just don’t really understand, practically, what their role is.”   

MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Little outreach for fire commissioner: Compared to the extensive outreach deployed to find a new police commissioner, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu hired a new fire commissioner pretty much on her own with little outside input. No search committee, no listening sessions, no job posting, and no search firm. Read more.

Even matchup: Opposing groups are evenly matched in terms of finances on the constitutional amendment imposing a 4 percent surtax on income over $1 million. Read more.

Medical parole review: The Supreme Judicial Court is revisiting the issue of medical parole, and whether the Baker administration is interpreting a state law authorizing the release of incapacitated prisoners too narrowly. Read more.

OPINION

E-bike worries: Joan Pickett, a member of Cambridge Streets for All, says faster, heavier e-bikes and their potential for more severe accidents worry her. Read more.

Difference maker: US Sen. Ed Markey and Joe Curtatone of the Northeaster Clean Energy Council say federal funding, if used wisely, can begin to make a real difference on climate change. Read more.

Limited role for hydrogen: Kyle Murray of the Acadia Center takes issue with National Grid’s position that hydrogen should play a major role in reducing dependence on fossil fuels in buildings. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

BEACON HILL

The Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus, which currently has 17 members, is poised to add as many as seven new members following last week’s primary results. (Boston Globe

A former Littleton mill is now home to some 80 gun dealers, at least two dozen of whom are openly defying Attorney General Maura Healey’s directives on assault weapons. (Boston Globe

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

After four water main breaks, Methuen decides to use 80 percent of its federal ARPA funding on water and sewer projects. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Lawrence mayor places the president of the Lawrence police patrolmen’s union on leave after a “threatening incident” where he demanded to speak to the mayor without an appointment and due to statements he made to the media. (Eagle-Tribune)

David Mayo is the new director of Boston’s Office of Returning Citizens, which is focused on helping people being released from prison. (Boston Globe

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

President Biden will be at the Kennedy Library in Dorchester today to deliver a speech aimed at boosting his cancer moonshot initiative. It comes 60 years to the day after President John F. Kennedy’s speech launching the country’s literal moonshot effort. (Boston Globe

The Family Health Center of Worcester, which serves low-income patients, lays off 35 workers, furloughs 15, and closes two branches amid financial troubles. (Telegram & Gazette)

The US attorney’s office penalizes the operator of nursing homes in Braintree and Plymouth for turning away patients who had medication prescriptions to treat opioid use disorder. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Biden is announcing a new funding initiative to encourage biotech production for pharmaceuticals as well as agriculture, plastics, and energy. (NPR)

The Globe’s Janelle Nanos takes a look at the persistent efforts of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley to get President Biden to order student debt loan relief. 

The federal government’s new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is fielding a lot more calls from people seeking referrals for help. (NPR) 

ELECTIONS

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey pledges her commitment to Western Massachusetts in an editorial meeting with the Springfield Republican. Healey and her running mate Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll reiterated their support for East-West rail between Boston, Springfield, and Pittsfield in a visit to Springfield’s Union Station on Friday. (MassLive)

Healey derails a bid to limit super PAC spending in a 2024 ballot question, ruling that a proposed question impermissibly curtails free speech. (State House News Service)

GOP gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl, in an interview on WCVB-TV, said “the Biden economy” will be the main focus of his campaign, citing the high cost of food and fuel. (Boston Herald

The state Appeals Court upholds a fine and license suspension against Peabody home improvement contractor Damian Anketell, who is running for state Senate. (Salem News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Child poverty in the US has fallen by a striking 59 percent since 1993, a trend attributed to expansion of the country’s social safety net. (New York Times

A Great Barrington locksmith uncovers a scam by out-of-state businesses masquerading as locksmiths. His investigation prompted an alert from the Better Business Bureau. (Berkshire Eagle)

TRANSPORTATION

Rail advocates are renewing their push for rail service from Montreal to Boston. (Salem News)

Someone who is late getting their car inspected will no longer get a sticker reflecting the month of their inspection, but the month their last sticker expired, under new state rules. (MassLive)

Sparks and smoke at the MBTA’s Park Street station lead to a suspension of Green Line service. (NBC10 Boston)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

New England’s fall foliage will be duller than usual due to drought. (USA Today Network)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

US Attorney Rachael Rollins has recused herself and her office from any involvement in potential federal investigation into Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden’s questionable handling of a case involving Transit Police officers. (Boston Herald)

PASSINGS

Eugene B. DeFilippo Sr., a World War II veteran and longtime Northampton vice principal and teacher, dies at 97 in a car crash. (MassLive)