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Democrat Robert Massie kicks off campaign to unseat Charlie Baker

05/16/2017 SOMERVILLE, MA Bob Massie (cq), Democratic candidate for Governor of Mass, kicks off his campaign with a speech at the Somerville Armory. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Democratic candidate Robert Massie opened his campaign with a speech in Somerville Tuesday.

SOMERVILLE — Another Democrat has officially entered the fray for the party’s gubernatorial nomination in 2018.

Robert K. Massie, a longtime environmentalist and entrepreneur, told about 200 supporters during his formal campaign kickoff Tuesday night that he is “irrevocably committed to liberty and justice for all.”

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He said that commitment would translate as governor into a fight for workers’ rights and economic equality, initiatives to battle climate change, and many other progressive causes.

“I don’t believe that [Republican Governor] Charlie Baker has any sense of where we should go” to address economic and environmental challenges, Massie said during remarks at the Center for Arts at the Armory on Highland Avenue.

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He said the state could do more to push for renewable energy sources, a higher minimum wage, lower student debt burdens, criminal justice reform, single-payer health care, and a host of other priorities.

Massie also took repeated jabs at President Trump, whom he derided as a “crazy president” who has “almost certainly never read” the Constitution.

He said the state and the country’s principles of fairness and equality are “under attack” by Trump, but “we can recover if we speak with courage and honesty.”

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Massie was introduced by Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, a pugnacious fellow Democrat who has made headlines for his vocal criticism of Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s hard-line stances on immigration policy.

Curtatone said Massie “knows if we’re going to be truly great, then we don’t turn our backs on immigrants, documented or undocumented.”

The mayor, in a nod to Massie’s status as a relative outlier in what figures to be a crowded Democratic field, noted that Deval Patrick and Barack Obama began their quests for governor and president, respectively, against long odds.

“No one gave them a chance,” Curtatone said. “I want a governor who’s going to fight for us. . . . We can elect the most progressive governor in this Commonwealth’s history.”

The Rev. Leslie Sterling, a Cambridge Episcopal priest and former Red Sox announcer, also addressed supporters, highlighting Massie’s advocacy on behalf of workers, gays and lesbians, and the environment.

“I see a man with a powerful progressive voice,” Sterling said.

Massie’s wife, Anne, recalled his college protests against apartheid in South Africa and gender discrimination on campus, and his early work for consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

“Bob is not in this race for fame or money,” she said. “He’s motivated [by the idea] that we can and we must do better for each other and for the planet we live on.”

Emil Jacob, 49, of Cambridge, was among Massie’s supporters. “I value his outlook on the future, both economically and environmentally,” Jacob said. “He is such a fresh voice in this right-wing culture we see around the country.”

Massie, 60, of Somerville, was the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994, running unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket with Mark Roosevelt. He also ran briefly for the US Senate in 2011, but dropped out after Elizabeth Warren entered the race.

In March, Massie left his job leading a climate preparedness, research, and development lab at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Born with hemophilia, Massie contracted HIV and later hepatitis C as a result of flawed blood treatments, eventually undergoing a successful liver transplant. The experience provided “a major backbone of my passion and contributes to the energy and direction of my life and this campaign,” he told the Globe last month.

During his remarks on Tuesday, Massie held up leg braces he wore as a child and told the crowd that “they were my shackles, but they have also become the symbols of triumph.”

An ordained Episcopal priest and three times a published author, he won an international award for his book on the United States and South Africa during the apartheid era.

Other declared or potential Democratic hopefuls include former Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, and former state senator Dan Wolf, the founder of Cape Air.

The eventual Democratic nominee will hope to defeat Baker in his presumed reelection bid.

The popular Republican governor walked a fine line during Donald Trump’s candidacy, and has done so since he became president. The governor issued two statements in January against Trump’s executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, but he took criticism for not attending a massive rally that month in Copley Square or the earlier Women’s March on Boston Common.

Still, Baker enjoyed high favorability ratings, in part by citing his team’s work to reform the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Health Connector and plug a state budget gap.

Laura Krantz and Jim O’Sullivan of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.
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