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Baker going to Vegas GOP event; controversial pastor will attend, too

Governor Charlie Baker.
Governor Charlie Baker.Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Wish him luck.

Governor Charlie Baker, who has publicly eschewed heavy involvement in national politics, is headed to Las Vegas this weekend to speak at a confab of top conservatives.

The trip to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring leadership meeting, which will be attended by GOP power brokers, fund-raisers, and other insiders, is sure to create awkward optics for the moderate Massachusetts Republican.

Other confirmed speakers include Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Governor Rick Scott of Florida, and Pastor John Hagee, whose controversial sermon about Adolf Hitler and Jews led Senator John McCain to spurn the religious leader’s endorsement during the 2008 presidential race.

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In a sermon in the 1990s, Hagee appeared to argue that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to push Jews back to the historic land of Israel.

Asked why Baker is traveling to Las Vegas, his top spokesman, Tim Buckley, said simply that “he was invited by the RJC and accepted their invitation to attend their annual meeting.” Asked about the Hagee controversy, Buckley said the governor “denounces that type of hateful rhetoric.”

The governor’s speech this weekend is closed to the press.

According to the group’s website, the event will be “a terrific weekend of politics, policy and poker at the fabulous Venetian Resort and Hotel. Attendees will have the opportunity to shake hands, ask questions, and be heard by some of the country’s leading politicians, policy makers and influential leaders.”

Buckley alerted the Globe that Baker is also traveling to Washington, D.C., in late April for a National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce event.

The US House’s Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Chuck Schumer, two of the country’s most prominent liberals, are also set to attend the event.

Baker, who took office in January 2015, has courted controversy with out-of-state travel. In March of this year, he attended a secretive conference off the Georgia coast, huddling with politicians, conservative intellectuals, and top technology executives.

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The chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, state Senator Thomas M. McGee, said that while the governor “claims he rejects the national GOP brand, his actions speak louder than words.”

Baker, the most popular governor in the United States, according to one poll, has insisted he won’t be running for national office.


Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.