Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker said Tuesday he would push for former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, ailing from cancer while imprisoned for corruption, to be moved to a prison facility closer to home, in accordance with a judge’s recommendation.
“I think if the judge in that case believes that it’s appropriate for him to be closer to home, then it would be proper and appropriate to follow the judge’s decision on that,” Baker said Tuesday during an appearance on NECN.
Asked by host Jim Braude if he would advocate for DiMasi’s relocation, Baker said he would.
Baker’s declaration puts him on the opposite side of Governor Deval Patrick, who has kept the DiMasi family’s relocation bids at arm’s length.
DiMasi is incarcerated in North Carolina, serving an eight-year sentence on federal corruption charges. US District Court Judge Mark Wolf, who sentenced DiMasi, recommended that the North End Democrat be imprisoned at Devens, citing DiMasi’s previous health woes and those of his wife, Debbie, who had recently had a mastectomy for breast cancer.
The Bureau of Prisons instead assigned DiMasi to a Kentucky facility. Since, he has been moved to North Carolina, which Debbie DiMasi has said posed serious challenges to family visits.
A groundswell of political support for DiMasi’s transfer has never materialized, despite support from hardcore progressive activists, who remain devoted to DiMasi for his early backing for gay rights and prominent role in universal health care.
Baker, though, became the most prominent Republican to support DiMasi’s request. Baker and DiMasi worked together on the state’s 2006 health care expansion law, when Baker led Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and DiMasi helped shape the law as House speaker.
DiMasi was among the most progressive speakers in the state’s history. Baker, who ran against Patrick in 2010 in part by hammering Beacon Hill, is seeking during his second run to appeal to more independents.
In Tuesday’s NECN interview, Baker also defended New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, under fire for a George Washington Bridge traffic scandal that has rocked the Garden State Republican’s administration and threatened his presidential prospects.
“He fired the people who were involved in that sort of active political sabotage that took place, which was the right thing to do, and he said he had nothing to do with it,” Baker said on NECN. “And he has basically said, you know, ‘I’m open to whatever the investigators need and the investigations require, and I’m going to be cooperative.’ And I’m going to take him at his word on it at this point.”
Baker continued, “If it turns out that there’s an issue here, then that’s going to be a problem not just for me, but for him.”Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.