Blank Charlie Baker,
Massachusetts Republican Group Says

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By Katie Lannan

As he runs for a second term against Democrat Jay Gonzalez, Governor Charlie Baker is now also facing a different campaign from his right, as a conservative group urges Republicans to blank their ballots in the gubernatorial contest.

The Massachusetts Republican Assembly on Thursday announced its “Blank Baker” campaign, saying the governor has displayed a hesitance “to support fellow Republicans,” and alluding to his decision not to vote for either candidate in the 2016 presidential election.

“In an election that offers no actual gubernatorial choice to advance the cause of common sense or conservatism, the Massachusetts Republican Assembly will invoke Baker’s own standard:  Do not vote for the lesser of two evils,” the group said in a press release.

The group is selling “#BlankBaker2018” bumper stickers for $5.

Asked about the Republican Assembly’s effort, Baker said his approach to governance is built on bipartisanship and attempts “to listen to everybody.”

“I’m very proud of the fact that many of the initiatives we’ve pursued have received bipartisan support, in some cases unanimous support from both branches, and I think that’s one of the things people appreciate about the way we operate,” Baker said Tuesday. “I also think it’s worked for the people of Massachusetts. We have more people working than at any time in state history, and the 215,000 jobs we’ve added over the last four years is the largest number of jobs created since they started keeping score in 1976, and we do listen and try to listen to everybody as we go about doing our jobs and doing our work, because that’s what I think we were elected to do.”

A moderate Republican whose campaign highlights endorsements from Democratic mayors and state representatives, Baker has criticized President Donald Trump’s policy proposals on issues including health care, and opposed the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Fifty-five percent of the state’s roughly 4.5 million voters were unenrolled as of August 15, according to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office. The 465,952 registered Republicans make up just over 10 percent of voters, with nearly 1.5 million Democrats accounting for 33 percent.

Baker has led Gonzalez in a series of public opinion polls, and registered strong support from Democrats in those surveys.

Baker has endorsed much of the GOP slate in the November 6 election. In a debate against Gonzalez last week, Baker initially said he had not decided if he would vote for Republican Senate candidate Geoff Diehl despite endorsing him, then later told reporters he misspoke and would vote for Diehl.

The Republican Assembly, in its press release, cited Baker’s “failure to immediately support” Diehl during the debate and his status as “the only prominent Republican in the nation to abandon due process and common decency by saying he believed the accusers of now US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”

“Enough is enough, there is no I in TEAM, Charlie,” Assembly President Mary Lou Daxland said in a statement. “Our party has a state and national platform. Stop weighing down the candidates who actually run on it.”

The Shirley Republican Town Committee is also urging blank votes in the governor’s race. The committee makes the ask in a Facebook post referring to the debate and “a damaging bout of indecisiveness from Baker on live television, where he wavered and wobbled over several questions on Diehl.”

“Baker, not a Republican in any sense of the word, will win as he has more Democrat support than true Republican support!” the committee wrote.

Baker reiterated his backing of Diehl the day after the debate, saying he had “supported candidates over the years that I didn’t agree with on everything, Democrats and Republicans.”

Gonzalez and the Massachusetts Democratic Party have also knocked Baker over his handling of the Diehl question.

In WBUR/MassINC poll conducted September 17 through September 21, 55 percent of voters said Baker’s endorsement of Diehl against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren made no difference to them, and 28 percent said it made them less likely to vote for the governor.

The same poll found 67 percent of Democrats viewed Baker favorably.

Baker on Tuesday said he is able to bring a “constructive friction of having both teams on the field” to his work with the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

“Many of the initiatives that we’ve succeeded in have been bipartisan, and we’ve worked through with our colleagues in the Legislature but there have been a lot of different points of view and a lot of different ideas that have been worked through in the process along the way, and that’s as I think it should be,” he said. “My hope is that many of the issues we end up wrestling with the Legislature and with our colleagues in local government about, most people could see as just simply things that we should fix and things that we should do to make the commonwealth a better place for people but I definitely believe when you have two teams on the field and there’s public accountability for both Democrats and Republicans, you get a better product.”

Asked to discuss his “Republican values,” Baker brought up “fiscal discipline,” saying he came into office with the state facing a structural budget deficit and the most recent fiscal year ended with a surplus.