In a sign of growing national interest in the Massachusetts governor’s race, a super PAC backed by the Republican Governors Association and onetime aides to former governor Mitt Romney is launching a TV ad Thursday supporting GOP hopeful Charlie Baker.
The positive 30-second spot highlights Baker’s time as a top aide to then-governor William F. Weld, saying Baker worked to cut taxes and reform state government. It also boosts Baker’s stewardship of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, of which he was president and chief executive, saying he turned the company around.
Super PACs — which can raise unlimited amounts of money from people, corporations, and labor unions — are known for being shadowy organizations because their backers are often obscured. But a new state law requires the identity of the top five donors to super PACs to be displayed in their advertisements.
According to the list in the new spot, one of the backers is Beth Myers, who was Romney’s chief of staff when he was governor and a top aide during both of his presidential bids, a spokeswoman for the PAC confirmed.
According to the ad, the other top donors are Chris Collins, Lisa Collins, Kelly O’Neill, and the Republican Governors Association, a national, well-financed group focused on electing GOP candidates as governors.
The association spent millions of dollars helping Baker during his unsuccessful 2010 bid to unseat Governor Deval Patrick. It is expected to again have a significant involvement in this year’s contest, which is seen nationally as a realistic opportunity for a Republican win. Baker, Romney, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the association’s chairman, headlined a fund-raiser for it in Boston this year.
Jamie Rhoades, the spokeswoman for the PAC and the wife of Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, said all the donors, except the governors group, are Massachusetts residents.
Chris and Lisa Collins have been frequent contributors to Republican causes and candidates, including Romney, Rhoades confirmed.
Beth Lindstrom, the president of the super PAC, appears at the end of the ad.
“Charlie has a vision for Massachusetts, and the experience to make it happen,” she says. “I know: I served in government with Charlie Baker and saw him get results.”
Lindstrom worked as executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery in the late 1990s, and served in the Romney administration as the state’s consumer affairs and business regulation director.
Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist not involved in the governor’s race, said she thought the ad aimed to boost Baker’s prospects with women voters, whom he lost by a significant margin in 2010. “It’s very smart that they went up with a positive ad, touting his business expertise and having a woman, Beth Lindstrom, who worked with him, be a third-party validator,” she said.
The ad will air statewide, Rhoades said, but she declined to specify its scope or how much money was backing it. A Democratic media consultant familiar with the ad’s placement said it was backed by more than $450,000, a substantial sum.
The super PAC, Commonwealth Future Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee, is one of the outside groups, on both sides of the partisan divide, that have proliferated in this year’s race to succeed Patrick.
A super PAC backing Treasurer Steve Grossman has been airing ads attacking one of his Democratic gubernatorial rivals, Attorney General Martha Coakley, ahead of the Sept. 9 state primary election.
So it’s wise for a GOP-aligned super PAC to help Baker at this point in the race, said Will Ritter, a Republican media consultant and former top Romney aide. He said it made sense to reintroduce Baker and refamiliarize people with his story as Democrats battle it out.
“It’s a smart strategy for the [outside group] supporting Baker to go warm and positive, focus on Baker’s strength of resume, and help get Baker’s name ID up to Coakley levels while she fights off Grossman,” said Ritter, cofounder of GOP ad firm Poolhouse Digital.
Public polls have found Baker essentially unknown by about four out of 10 likely general election voters. Coakley, who ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2010, is better known and leading her Democratic rivals, polls have found.
Asked whether Baker was pleased to be getting the significant support from the group, Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said in a statement that the candidate is “humbled by the overwhelming support he has received from families in all corners of the Commonwealth who are joining his effort to bring fiscal responsibility back to Beacon Hill.”
Baker faces businessman and political newcomer Mark R. Fisher in a GOP primary.
Along with Coakley and Grossman, former federal Medicare and Medicaid chief Don Berwick is also vying for the Democratic Party’s nod. Three independent candidates are running as well.