The chameleon governor

Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr calls Gov. Charlie Baker Tall Deval. Democratic rival Jay Gonzalez suggests Baker is indirectly backing the Trump agenda in Washington. And Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi portrays the governor as a timid, calculating wimp always trying to balance on a political tightrope.

Will the real Charlie Baker please stand up?

All of this comes to mind as Baker is grappling with his first major campaign challenge. After last week’s primary, Baker endorsed the entire state GOP ticket, including two candidates (US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl and attorney general candidate Jay McMahon) who are both big Donald Trump supporters. In these uncertain times, many are wondering whether the most popular governor in America could be undone by backing fellow Massachusetts Republicans who embrace a president reviled in Massachusetts.

Generally, endorsements don’t seem to matter all that much to voters. Just ask US Rep. Michael Capuano, who garnered the bulk of the big endorsements in the Democratic primary but nevertheless lost to Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has taken hits for backing a bunch of losers in the primary, but no one is suggesting his position as mayor is in any danger.

Baker’s embrace of Diehl and McMahon is more problematic because they are Trump guys, and Trump is toxic to 62 percent of voters in Massachusetts, the highest percentage of any state. But most voters also realize the governor isn’t a big fan of the president. The Boston Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says Democrats’ efforts to tie Baker to Trump won’t work.

Baker’s bigger problem is that his endorsement of Diehl and McMahon makes him come off as cold and calculating – he’s backing fellow Republicans so as not to offend his base but he’s not doing it enthusiastically. For Vennochi, it’s a recurring theme.

“For all the political capital attached to his poll numbers, Baker is a cautious hoarder, afraid to spend down a penny of it,” she wrote in May. “He has carved out the safe, dull middle ground of Massachusetts politics, save for the obvious election year death-penalty swerve to the right. His preferred political position: extreme sphinx.”

After Baker’s endorsement of Diehl, Vennochi seemed to acknowledge the governor’s political math but she once again lamented Baker’s lack of backbone. “Imagine if Baker had stood up and said he couldn’t support Diehl because of Diehl’s support for the Trump agenda,” she wrote. “He’d lose Trump supporters, but he would win grudging respect from progressives for sticking to principle. Instead, the most popular governor in America will walk that ever-cautious and always defensive Charlie line. He will embrace Diehl but try to keep his distance from him.”

Over the weekend, the Globe editorial page looked back at its endorsement of Baker in 2014 and came to the conclusion that he followed through on most of what the paper wanted him to do. He’s been a good manager, he’s provided an effective counterpoint to the Democratic Legislature, and he fought for charter school expansion (and lost). Interestingly, the Globe’s 2014 editorial criticized Baker’s opponent, Martha Coakley, for waffling on the charter school ballot question.

The editorial was a reminder that Baker, despite his cautious nature and his penchant for blending in with his political surroundings, is doing what most voters elected him to do.



Worcester Memorial Auditorium, vacant for 20 years, may get a second chance, but upgrades will cost more than $50 million. (Telegram & Gazette)

Chelmsford selectmen voted 3-2 to not join a regional public safety dispatch center. (Lowell Sun)

The Westborough town manager, who had three years left on his contract, has been hired in Lexington for the same post. (MetroWest Daily News)


The Trump administration is rolling back yet another regulation limiting greenhouse gases, proposing to make it easier for energy companies to release methane gas into the atmosphere without cumbersome and costly tests. (New York Times)

Nationally syndicated talk show host and columnist Dennis Prager, who once claimed converting homosexual men to marriage was an ancient Jewish custom worth reviving, says President Trump’s policies, not morality, are what make him a good role model for children. (National Review)


Secretary of State William Galvin seizes control of the Lawrence elections division amid fears the resignation of its senior staffer will leave the agency unable to conduct a recount of votes in the Third Congressional District primary and oversee the general election. (Eagle-Tribune)  Citing improprieties in the way votes were counted in Lowell in the congressional primary, Galvin also seized control of that municipality’s elections division. (Lowell Sun)

What a reformer district attorney might look like in Boston, from those living it in Chicago and Philadelphia. (WBUR)

The decrepit state of the MBTA comes front and center in the governor’s race, with each candidate blaming the other for its poor condition. (Boston Globe)

Ayanna Pressley says she will keep turning down corporate PAC contributions. (WBUR)

A ballot question fight over nurse staffing ratios is going to be expensive, with the two sides spending nearly $12 million so far. (MassLive)

Herald columnist Michael Graham says Republican US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl (and through him Donald Trump), not Gov. Charlie Baker, is the leader of the state Republican Party.


A Washington think tank sees peril in Boston’s luxury towers, painting them as as “vertical gated communities” that contribute to income inequality in Boston and are “part of a global hidden wealth infrastructure.” (CommonWealth)

The union representing locked-out National Grid workers isn’t giving up, though it’s fighting an uphill battle. (Boston Globe)

Workers at the nation’s two largest steel companies are demanding higher wages because of increased profits as a result of tariffs on imported steel. (Wall Street Journal)

Rocket mortgage? NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has ordered the agency to look into selling naming rights on rockets and other spacecraft and allowing astronauts to endorse products and appear on labeling in an effort to raise money and brand appeal. (Washington Post)


A 17-year-old student pilot from Gloucester managed to land her first solo flight even though one of the plane’s wheels fell off during takeoff. (Salem News)

Attorney General Maura Healey and state public safety and education officials are clarifying the role of resource officers in schools, telling administrators in a memorandum the officers should not act as “school disciplinarians” and should only arrest students as “a last resort.” (The Enterprise)

Quincy’s new middle school will have a new name when it opens next fall, dropping the current Sterling Middle School, named after a principal from more than 90 years ago, and adopting South-West for the geographic neighborhood it serves. (Patriot Ledger)

The declining birthrate means colleges and universities will be competing for fewer students over the next decade, including a projected drop of 15 percent between 2025 and 2029. (U.S. News & World Report)


Brian Lang, a member of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, accused the MBTA of ignoring the plight of Chelsea residents riding the oft-delayed 111 bus to Boston because they are working-class immigrants. Damali Vidot, the president of the Chelsea City Council, agreed. “If we were Andover, this would not be happening,” she said. (CommonWealth)

T notes: The transit agency has had some success cutting maintenance costs for buses and subway cars, but not the Green Line…The T hires a team of firms to help procure the Green Line cars of the future and retains another group of firms to keep 86 Red Line cars from falling apart….Repair work on the Alewife garage begins, but 200 spaces will be lost for staging work. (CommonWealth)

The Chinese company manufacturing new Red Line cars in Springfield tried to get workers to sign a noncompete clause a month before a new state law limiting such contracts took effect, but then backed down in the face of resistance to the idea. (Boston Globe)


ExxonMobil is appealing to the US Supreme Court a Supreme Judicial Court decision that sanctioned a probe by Attorney General Maura Healey into whether the company hid from the public its knowledge off the risks of climate change. (Boston Herald)

California passes a law mandating 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040. Zero-emission electricity would include power from nuclear plants. (WBUR)

Hurricane Florence, now a Category 4, is bearing down on the Carolinas where officials have ordered mandatory evacuations along the coast and some inland areas. (U.S. News & World Report)


Coming under fire for his handling of sexual abuse claims, Cardinal Sean O’Malley says his primary focus is preventing abuse, not investigating allegations of it. (Boston Herald) A Herald editorial rips his stand, saying, “As important as prevention is, it is astounding that the church’s approach is so myopic.”


A 24-year-old Whitinsville man is facing animal cruelty charges for burying his ex-girlfriend’s dog alive. The dog was still breathing when it was rescued, but it later had to be euthanized. (Telegram & Gazette)


CBS says in a security filing it will donate $20 million to “one or more charitable organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace” following the resignation of CEO Les Moonves amid allegations of sexual harassment. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)