Last year, after the convictions of top administrators at the state probation department, lots of folks were urging candidate Charlie Baker to make Democratic patronage hiring abuse a central element of the GOP gubernatorial candidate’s campaign. Baker held his fire, though he criticized the practice, he never really went after Democrats on Beacon Hill with guns blazing on this issue. At the time, I argued that he shouldn’t make this a central line of argument against Democrats on Beacon Hill because it would awaken the organizational muscle of Democratic legislators across the state whose efforts could seriously damage Baker’s own chances of election. Another reason for Baker's restraint on the campaign trail may well have been his commitment to rebuilding his state party.
Today’s Boston Globe included an article titled “Baker taps failed GOP candidates for posts.” In it we learn that the governor has given a number of Republican office seekers, folks he campaigned for and who campaigned for him, well paid positions in his administration. This isn’t corruption; its party building that will help the MassGOP recruit better state legislative candidates in the future. Had Baker hammered Democratic patronage hiring as much as many pundits recommended, he would have made his efforts to rebuild the MassGOP into a viable legislative party even more difficult than it already is. Though some will certainly question the qualifications of some of the failed legislative candidates hired to fill administrative posts, because Baker didn’t make patronage hiring a marquee issue last year, Democratic criticism of his own hires will be much less vigorous.
The Governor’s restrained criticism of Democratic patronage hiring in last year’s campaign showed that he understands how and when it’s appropriate to play a long game rather than to jump on a potentially explosive short term “game changer.” His strategic hiring of failed GOP candidates across the Commonwealth signals that this Governor, unlike his Republican predecessors, is serious about rebuilding his state party.