Governor Charlie Baker, looking to cement his reputation as a practitioner of bipartisan compromise as he begins the second half of his term, will deliver a State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday starkly at odds with the inaugural remarks offered last Friday by President Trump.
“Thank you,” the Republican chief executive will say to the Democrat-controlled Legislature. He will use the word “compromise” more than once. And he will draw an explicit contrast with the political climate in Washington.
“It’s one thing to stand in a corner and shout insults at your opponents. It’s quite another to climb into the arena — and fight for common ground,” Baker is expected to say, according to an excerptof his speechprovided to the Globe.
In his third annual address, Baker will dwell — at some length — on the theme of bipartisanship, as he continues to work at distancing himself from Trump, whose inaugural was widely received as a condemnation of the political establishment.
Following an unsuccessful bid to unseat Democratic Governor Deval Patrick in 2010, after which he acknowledged he came across as too hard-edged, Baker has consistently peddled a softer version of himself. That image will be in full relief Tuesday night in the House chamber, where Baker will extol the compromises he and lawmakers have reached on a range of topics: energy, substance abuse and addiction, public records, pay equity across genders, and economic development.
“Given the sort of noise and the vitriol of the past year or so, I think it’s important to point out that this has been a successful and effective way for us to share our respective roles in governing and getting stuff done, and that it bears repeating,” Baker said during a Globe interview in his office, where a lectern had been placed for speech practice.
But he downplayed the notion that his speech represented a deliberate reaction to Trump’s inaugural.
“It’s more a comment on what I believe has worked here that’s worth emphasizing and repeating, but it’s certainly an attempt on my part to remind people that this has worked well here and that it does stand, to some extent, in contrast to some of the national dialogue,” Baker said.
Unlike Republican office-holders in some areas of the country where Trump ran up large margins in his November victory, Baker has ample reason to give the president a wide berth. Trump won just 34 percent of the vote here, to Hillary Clinton’s 61 percent.
A WBUR poll released Monday of 508 registered voters in the state pegged Baker’s favorability rating at 59 percent and unfavorability at 18 percent — and Trump with a 28 percent/60 percent negative split.
“I think he needs to thread the needle of being commanding on the policies and orientations that got him elected in Massachusetts while also differentiating his brand from that of Donald Trump,” said Erin O’Brien, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Thus far, Baker has drawn no firm challenges for his expected reelection bid next year, although some state Democrats, including Newton Mayor Setti Warren and former Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez, have told associates privately that they plan to run.
But the state Democratic Party, under new leadership, appears freshly determined to try to lash Baker to Trump as frequently as possible — the hopes taking the shine off the governor’s popularity.
“Reelection’s a lot closer right now. He’s still got time, but it’s a very different context from when President Obama was in office and a lot of Massachusetts Democrats and independents were complacent, and now that Donald Trump was in office they’re not,” O’Brien said.
‘It’s more of a comment on what I believe has worked here that’s worth emphasizing . . .’
On Monday, Baker said he and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito would make a decision this year about seeking a second term.
“The big issue associated with running for reelection is: Do you still have a lot of things you believe you’d like to see through and get done, and new initiatives you’d like to pursue? And Karyn and I have always talked about having that conversation sometime in ’17, and we will,” Baker said.
The governor on Saturday announced his intentions to include a $91 million increase in education funding for cities and towns and a $40 million bump to their unrestricted local assistance as part of the fiscal 2018 budget he will release Wednesday.
In Monday’s interview, Baker also said the Trump administration had recently circulated a list of priority infrastructure projects that included the state’s long-sought Green Line expansion, planned for an extension into Somerville and Medford. The state is hoping to win about $1 billion in federal funding for the project.
Baker said he wrote the first and final drafts of the speech, with “a whole bunch of authors” in between.
“I’m always nervous, so I’m nervous for this one, too,” Baker said, adding, “I’m not one of those people the game slows down for.”Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.