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As Democrats target GOP, Baker escapes criticism

Elizabeth Warren panned Donald Trump’s controversial stance on immigration at the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s yearly convention on Saturday.Dave Roback/The Republican via AP

SPRINGFIELD — US Senator Elizabeth Warren panned Donald Trump’s controversial stance on immigration, as loud boos rang out at the very mention of the businessman White House hopeful. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean ripped 2016 GOP White House contenders as subscribing to “crackpot” supply-side economics. And top Democratic state officials painted those Republicans as keen to gut the country’s social safety net.

But amid sharp contrasts made with the national GOP at the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s yearly convention on Saturday, there was scarcely a peep of public criticism aimed at a Republican closer to home: Governor Charlie Baker.

The Democratic confab brought together almost 2,000 of the party’s most stalwart activists in Springfield, and a parade of top Massachusetts Democrats worked to pump up loyal supporters with passionate rhetoric about fighting for working people. Yet most speakers — including top politicians seen as potential gubernatorial aspirants, such as Attorney General Maura Healey — did not even utter Baker’s name on stage.

And, asked how Baker is doing, several high-profile Democrats spoke positively.


“I think he’s doing a good job,” US Senator Edward J. Markey said in a short interview, explaining he has worked with Baker on issues such as snowstorm relief and addressing the opioid addiction crisis across the state. “I’m looking forward to partnering with him on other issues in the years to come.”

“How’s he doing? I think he’s doing very well for someone who — I’m new in my job, and there’s always a learning curve,” state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg said as she worked the crowd at the MassMutual Center.

Mayor Setti D. Warren of Newton, a Democrat widely seen as a potential 2018 gubernatorial challenger to Baker, initially parried answering how Baker is doing, saying that’s for voters to decide.

But pressed, he told reporters: “My measure is how our interface is with the administration and, at this point, we’ve had excellent relationships building with Secretary [of Transportation Stephanie] Pollack and Secretary [of Housing and Economic Development Jay] Ash.”


Polls this summer found Baker garnering very favorable numbers for a member of the GOP in a state with a heavily Democratic Legislature and not a single Republican member of Congress.

A July WBUR survey, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, found 64 percent of registered Massachusetts voters had a generally favorable view of Baker.

To be sure, some Democrats at the Springfield confab did take a whack at Baker, a former top official in state government who served as a health insurance company executive in the 2000s, lost his bid for governor in 2010, and won against Democrat Martha Coakley in 2014.

State party chairman Thomas M. McGee, a state senator from Lynn, said in a speech that Baker cut out the budget funds for policy areas such as education and economic development, appearing to refer to budget vetoes issued by the governor.

Steven A. Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, in the midst of a fiery stemwinder, dinged an executive order from Baker, referencing one the governor says is aimed at streamlining state regulations. The order has also sparked concern among environmental, consumer, and union advocates.

Perhaps the most holistic, if not particularly biting, criticism came from longtime Secretary of State William F. Galvin.

“There’s no bold vision that I’ve seen so far. I think he’s very cautious,” he said in an interview. “Cautious doesn’t always succeed in the longterm.”


Party conventions are often a hotbed of partisan hyperbole, and political analysts meditated on the dearth of contrasts with and sharp criticism of Baker Saturday.

Jeffrey M. Berry, a Tufts University political science professor, was surprised.

“If the Democrats are to run a credible race [for governor] in 2018, they really need to start developing a counter narrative to the success of the Baker administration,” he said. “It’s never too soon to start it.”

And given the partisan nature of the audience, he said, “if you are talking about what the shortcomings of the Baker administration [are], [the convention has the] safest audience to do it in front of.”

“I’m looking forward to partnering with him on other issues in the years to come,” Ed Markey said of Governor Baker in an interview. Dave Roback/The Republican via AP

Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, who gave a well- received speech Saturday, told the Globe that Baker is only eight months into office, and there’s a feeling of collaboration to see how “we can move things forward.”

“Everyone [here] is a Democratic activist, obviously,” he said after his speech, as several activists reached out to shake his hand. “But we’re also citizens of Massachusetts. And I think a lot of people understand: you got to see what happens.”

Jim Conroy, a top Baker adviser, who served as his 2014 campaign manager, responded to the convention in an e-mail.

“The administration is proud of its early record,” he said, “and focused on working in a bipartisan way to deliver results for the people of Massachusetts.”


The convention Saturday was attended by 1,900 people, the party estimated, and was a focused on issues, rather than on nominating candidates for office. A major theme was addressing income inequality, a gap on which Democrats across the country are focusing.

One top state party official noted it is a long way to 2018, but said the issues brought up Saturday are laying the groundwork for any Democratic challenge to Baker, should he run for reelection.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos and subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics at