While a sea of demonstrators were waving signs and chanting for women’s rights on Boston Common on Saturday, Governor Charlie Baker was just a few blocks away, immersed in municipal policy discussions and preparations for the rollout of his annual state budget on Wednesday.
The moderate Republican governor said his absence at the massive Women’s March wasn’t an intentional snub.
“I spent almost all my morning” at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Municipal Association at the Hynes Convention Center, the first-term governor told the Globe.
Then Baker, who is scheduled to deliver his annual State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday and release his fiscal 2018 budget on Wednesday, said he went to the State House, a route that would have taken him past the vocal throngs.
“Then I spent a bunch of time working on the speech and working on the budget in here, and that was time-sensitive stuff that I needed to get done,” he said Monday at the State House. “But, look, I think any time a big group of people gets out there and engages in the civic discourse, that’s a good thing, no matter what their point of view is.”
Baker’s absence underscored the prickly situation he is confronting, as a GOP governor hoping to work with President Trump in a heavily Democratic state where many fervently oppose him and any attempt to engage with his administration.
During the presidential campaign, Baker said that he was so worried about Trump’s temperament that he didn’t vote for anyone for president for the first time in his life.
After the election, however, he called to congratulate Trump on his victory, and has largely refrained from criticizing the president or his Cabinet appointees. And on Friday, he traveled to Washington to attend Trump’s inauguration.
Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat who spoke at the march and is seen by some as a potential challenger to Baker in 2018, weighed in on the governor’s absence without naming him directly.
“I’ve made it clear that I will do whatever I can, including taking President Trump to court, to stand up for what’s right,” she said in a statement. “I want to see all leaders in our state -- regardless of their party affiliation -- join with us in opposing the unconstitutional and harmful policy ideas this president plans to put forward.”
Emily Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, more directly chided Baker for not attending the Women’s March.
“We are certain that any remarks by the governor would have been enthusiastically received,” she said Monday. “Instead, he chose to continue his silence at this critical juncture in our state’s and our nation’s history.”
Baker emphasized that he supports many of issues the marchers were backing, including gay rights, abortion rights, and pay equity.
“Those are all issues that I’ve had very particular and specific positions on for a long time and support the point of view and the message of a lot of people who were part of that march and I had a lot of friends who marched,” Baker told reporters.
Asked whether the administration had sent a representative to the rally, estimated to have drawn about 175,000 people and most of the state’s biggest political names, Baker replied that he did not know. Senior adviser Tim Buckley said he was uncertain whether any administration officials had been invited.
A march organizer said Monday that volunteers had called the scheduling offices of both Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito to invite them.
The governor, whom polls show to be among the nation’s most popular, performs well among female voters.
Among Democratic women, according to a WBUR poll released Monday, 62 percent said they viewed Baker favorably, with 17 percent holding unfavorable opinions.
In the same poll, with voters broken down by age and gender, Baker’s best cohort was women older than 50, with 66 percent giving him a favorable rating and 16 percent an unfavorable one.
But fewer women, at 48 percent, thought Baker deserved reelection than men, 54 percent. Thirty percent of women said it was time to give someone else a chance, compared to 27 percent of men.
Laura Krantz and Joshua Miller of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JOSreports. Michael Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.