A top national Democrat Monday questioned Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker’s devotion to protecting women’s access to health care, an attempt to tie him to what Democrats say is a national Republican effort to undermine women’s rights.
At a Boston news conference, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz criticized Baker for saying last Wednesday that his opinion on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on insurance coverage for contraceptives “doesn’t matter” because the case would not affect Massachusetts. She knocked him for what she called his “pretty stunning indifference on Massachusetts women’s health care needs.”
“Charlie Baker is clearly an example of someone who had the gall to say that his position doesn’t matter on whether or not women deserve to have their bosses deciding for them what kinds of access to health care they can get,” Wasserman Schultz, a US representative from Florida, said at state Democratic Party headquarters downtown. “And Massachusetts women voters deserve to know that that’s how casual and cavalier Charlie Baker treated this issue.”
Last Thursday, Baker, who supports abortion rights, walked back his comments, acknowledging the case could affect some women in Massachusetts, expressing support for birth control coverage, and proposing a fix — a small state budget increase to provide coverage for women whose employers choose not to cover contraception.
Baker spokesman Tim Buckley responded to the attacks Monday with a statement noting the candidate’s “long pro-choice record and support for women’s health care,” knocking Democrats for “playing politics” on the issue, and emphasizing that Baker has provided “a real solution to ensure contraceptive care in Massachusetts is not disrupted by the court’s decision.”
In 2012, Democratic candidates across the country worked to paint many of their Republican rivals as openly hostile to issues important to women voters. In 2010, during Baker’s first run for governor, he lost the women’s vote by a substantial margin.
The DNC chairwoman, joined by state party chairman Thomas M. McGee at the news conference, also accused Baker of flip-flopping on issues such as the minimum wage and climate change, alleging he morphed his positions as the political winds changed direction.
Wasserman Schultz said that women would play a big role in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race “and elections across the country and that’s why Charlie Baker’s history of shifting stances is so troubling.”
Baker is expected to be the Republican nominee for governor after a Sept. 9 primary election in which he will go head-to-head with Tea Party-aligned businessman Mark R. Fisher.
Three Democrats and three independent candidates are also running to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, who is not running for a third term.Joshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.