An exasperated Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday that it was “appalling and outrageous” President Trump did not expressly commit to a peaceful transition should he lose November’s election, calling the hand-off of power a basic but fundamental bedrock of American democracy.
Often punctuating his sentences with pauses or exclamations, Baker, a Republican, offered unequivocal support for expanded mail-in balloting in rebuking Trump a day after the president said “we’re going to have to see what happens” when asked if he’d endorse a peaceful transfer in January.
In offering his noncommittal answer, Trump also said that “the ballots are a disaster," an apparent reference to mail-in voting, which he himself has used in the past.
“It is appalling and outrageous that anyone would suggest for a minute that if they lose an election, they’re not going to leave. Period,” Baker said toward the end of an unrelated, wide-ranging State House news conference. “And I know that I speak, I am sure, for the vast majority of the elected officials in the United States of America when I say that.”
Baker, seemingly incredulous that relinquishing office was even a question, added: “How many times at the end of an election have we heard the words the people have spoken?”
“Those of us who serve in public life will do everything we can to make sure that the people’s will is followed through and executed on because that is fundamentally why there is an United States of America in the first place," he said before shaking his head and leaving the podium.
Baker’s response, which stretched over five minutes, effectively offered a more forceful version of other Republicans’ commitment to the same ideals. Congressional Republicans, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, also pushed back Thursday, promising an “orderly transition” should Trump lose to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
But while Trump’s comments on Wednesday immediately stirred controversy, the possibility he’ll refuse to concede a loss has long hung over the campaign. A group of Democrats and Republicans even gathered in June to game out possible results of the November election, including a scenario of Trump having to be escorted from the White House, the Globe has reported.
Trump’s animus has been often trained on expanded mail-in balloting, claiming without evidence that it’s a source of widespread fraud. Baker on Thursday dismissed that, saying he voted by mail in the Sept. 1 primary, likening it to “absentee balloting on steroids.”
Nearly 813,000, or roughly 47 percent, of voters to cast ballots in the state primary did so by mail, the secretary of state’s office has said.
“It worked just fine,” Baker said. “The same way it worked just fine across the rest of the country. . . . Mail-in balloting has been with us forever. And that peaceful transfer of power is what the people of this country rely on when they go to vote.”
Baker also extended condolences to the family of Breonna Taylor, one day after a grand jury declined to indict any Kentucky police officers who fatally shot the young Black paramedic in that state in March.
What happened to Taylor was “a horrible, terrible tragedy," he said. “And unfortunately in our country, too many tragedies like this befall people of color, and far too often."
In Massachusetts, Baker pointed to legislation he unveiled in June that was designed to tighten accountability on law enforcement. Both chambers of the Legislature passed their own, wide-ranging versions during the summer, though legislative leaders have yet to agree on a final bill.
“I really hope that at some point this fall we have a chance to appropriately celebrate the signing of legislation that will hopefully deal with and solve some of these very important public policy and public safety issues going forward," Baker said.
Regarding the coronavirus, Baker said 15 Massachusetts cities and towns on Wednesday night were in the red high-risk category for virus transmission, while 13 municipalities moved from moderate- to lower-risk status.
Baker said the state’s enforcement and intervention team will continue to work with high-risk communities, and he urged residents of those areas to remain alert and responsible in an effort to “mitigate the spread.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @mattpstout. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Victoria McGrane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @vgmac.