Trump win echoes for days on Beacon Hill

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BOSTON – Trying to parse Tuesday’s election results had even the savviest political operators scratching their heads. Caveats were plentiful.

Donald Trump didn’t just win the Massachusetts Republican presidential primary, he steamrolled the competition in a state where, by historical standards, the more moderate and conciliatory Ohio Gov. John Kasich should have done better than a distant second. And yet over 100,000 more voters filled out Republican ballots than did in 2008, when former Gov. Mitt Romney was in the race, and without a single high-profile Bay State Republican backing the former reality television star.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo perhaps said it best with his analysis of what happened in the GOP: “People are disgusted with government and he really is the poster child for those people who are disgusted with government,” he said about The Donald.

Gov. Charlie Baker struggled to explain how the Republican and independent voters that swept him into office a little over a year ago could fall so hard for a man who the governor believes lacks the temperament and substance to inhabit the White House. But he also had very little interest in trying.

The morning after Super Tuesday, Baker visited a North Andover elementary school to read Dr. Seuss where he joked that he’d be much happier fielding questions from third graders all day than face the questions of reporters who traveled to meet the governor in the school gym.

Reading between the lines, it became clear that Baker had voted for either Kasich or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday, but he still wouldn’t say definitively. What he did say was that he would not vote for Trump, not even if he becomes the GOP nominee.

While his never-Trump declaration seemed to put Baker in the company of a growing number of party elders joining the stop Trump movement, the impression the governor left was that if he could close his eyes and wake up on Nov. 2 he would.

The national Republican Party this week dissolved into unpredictable convulsions over Trump’s meteoric rise, no better evidenced than by Romney’s scathing take-down of the New York businessman as a “phony” and “fraud” Thursday.

Baker, however, wanted no part of Romney, Trump or anything to do with the 2016 race after Wednesday morning, snapping at reporters and abruptly ending a press briefing a day later when it was clear that no one wanted to talk about his “day job.”

The way-way-down-ballot races on Tuesday is where Baker was able to count some wins. The governor’s controversial intrusion into the Republican State Committee contest produced wins in 52 of the 74 races in which Baker endorsed, allowing the governor to claim a majority on the party’s controlling apparatus.

Baker-backed candidates won in 30 of the 52 contested races that the governor got involved in, and five of the 11 incumbents, mostly deeply conservative committee members, were knocked off. Ironically, Trump’s statewide field director Bonnie Johnson was among the incumbent casualties.

The downside to the governor playing kingmaker at the party level is that some of the grassroots activists walked away feeling betrayed.

“I think that the governor is going to have a lot of hard work ahead of him to try to mend the broken bridges, the bridges he’s torn down, with the grassroots in the commonwealth,” said Marty Lamb, a Holliston Republican who won despite facing a Baker challenger.

If Baker had a rough week, his pal down the street, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, had a lot more to be happy about. The turnout in Boston for Hillary Clinton, with Walsh’s support, helped propel her to a narrow victory over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, handing her a win that was significant, if not for the delegates, then the narrative that she can perform among progressives who sent Elizabeth Warren to the U.S. Senate.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party was also celebrating a sweep at the polls where Fitchburg City Councilor Stephan Hay and former state Rep. Thomas Walsh of Peabody won special elections for open House seats even though Baker and the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance poured time and money into both races.

By holding the seat in Fitchburg, winning an uncontested seat in Brockton, and reclaiming a North Shore district that had been held by Republican Leah Cole for two terms before she quit last year, Democrats went three-for-three in the face of strong Trump headwinds that, according to Secretary of State William Galvin, blew 20,000 Democrats out of the party this year.

When DeLeo wasn’t playing pundit, the speaker signaled his desire this session to advance legislation that would limit the use of non-compete agreements, speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. It’s a touchy topic in the high-tech world, where DeLeo is trying to strike a balance between overly restricting the flow of talent across the sector and allowing business to protect their investments in talent development.

In the same speech, DeLeo made his clearest statement yet on the direction he wants to take with regard to energy resources, committing to a competitive procurement process for not just hydropower, but offshore wind-driven generators as well.

The statement was welcome news to the wind-power industry, which had gathered at the InterContinental hotel for a conference this week where House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano cautioned that price – for wind power and anything else – would be the deciding factor with lawmakers nervous about doing anything too costly to the consumer in an election year.

One consumer cost lawmakers probably won’t be able to stop is an increase in subway, bus, trolley and commuter rail fares.

Mayor Walsh, who has lots of constituents who pay for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority services, acknowledged this week that fares would probably have to rise, even after T administrators trimmed its projected budget deficit for fiscal 2017, in part by cancelling late-night services.

Written by Matt Murphy