January 04, 2016

The polls have been tabulated, the pundits have spoken, and we have a consensus: our love for Governor Charlie Baker is like a runaway red line train.

But let’s pause from cheering him and pat ourselves on the back. If you hadn’t noticed, sound business oriented Republican managers like Baker don’t abound in this nation.

There is no need for extensive remarks here about the Republican presidential race except to say that none of the candidates would be possible in Massachusetts. (Continue patting ourselves on the back, more vigorously). Yes the bluest state will elect a Republican governor, but only a certain kind. You have to fit into our square peg.

Massachusetts elects managers, leaders we expect will properly administer a $38 billion budget and our multitudinous organs of government. Confidence in management ability is all the more important when things are not going so well in the commonwealth and when the Democrats are the leading suspects, as in 1990 when Bill Weld was elected, and as in 2014 when public administration became the campaign’s mad, hot, sexy issue.

The Democrats have held both houses of the legislature since 1958 and the parties have about evenly divided their hold on the Corner Office since, so the how-to-get-things-done challenge didn’t burst on Baker like a supernova. Weld had a more combative first year than did Baker, but he accomplished a great deal and eventually forged a good relationship with Senate President William Bulger. Paul Cellucci was an essential partner in helping Weld to navigate the State House and won his own term. Governor Frank Sargent prided himself on his ability to get along with the Democrats. Mitt Romney found common ground with the legislative leadership to pass RomneyCare.

Beacon Hill’s a mess and we need to turn the whole thing over to an outsider with no idea how government works! Ah, no. Baker  served at the highest levels of the Weld and Cellucci administrations. Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo have been on Beacon Hill for decades. They all know that government has to work.

Baker has picked fights with the Carmen’s Union and the teacher’s unions, but hasn’t been wildly ideological about it. On the other hand he’s made sure to get buy-in from SEIU 509, which represents social workers, to reform the Department of Children and Families. On Syrian refugees the presidential candidates of his party went knee jerk right, the Boston Globe went knee jerk left, and Baker paused to make clear he wanted more information. Imagine, a decision maker wanting information.

To find something we don’t like, we may need to go back to 2010 so I did, to this Renee Loth Globe column:

Baker was badly served by his handlers, who gave him a meaner, harsher edge than was natural - railing about welfare cheats and illegal immigrants and holding secret meetings with Paul Loscocco on the eve of Loscocco's classless defection from his running mate, Tim Cahill. Of course, the candidate allowed himself to be so used, and needs to take "personal responsibility" (a favorite theme when applied to others) for his defeat.

So you can blame it on the handlers. Or you can say that the 2010 Baker was willing to hold those positions because he saw it as the surest route to victory in the year of Scott Brown and voter anger; and he could follow the political winds again.

It’s not what we got in 2014 though and not what we are getting now. And for that Massachusetts, you deserve to take a bow

Baker, Charlie

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