For pols who did not vote for President Trump and shunned his candidacy, 2017 has been an annus horribilis.
Except, of course, for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
The Republican — who didn’t vote for his party’s nominee and has attempted to keep an Ebola-like distance from the New York-reality-TV-host-turned-commander-in-chief — has reigned as the nation’s most popular governor this year, according to polls.
Part of that stems from Baker’s cheerful comity with Democrats and his stated aversion to the partisan fractiousness and combat in Washington. In a year-end interview, Baker trumpeted his working relationship with the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the local officials, many of whom are also Democrats, who run the state’s 351 cities and towns.
“In a time where there is so much polarity, our ability to continue to retain working, constructive relationships with our colleagues in state and local government on both sides of the aisle has been a positive achievement,” he said in response to a question about his accomplishments this year.
He cited his efforts with Democrats and a few other Republicans to thwart repeal of the Barack Obama-era health care law.
“I did not expect to spend so much of this year working with other governors and members of Congress on the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “But, you know, you sorta play the hand you get dealt.”
And, while he expressed frustration with the pace of Beacon Hill legislative accomplishments, he also expressed satisfaction with several bipartisan laws, such as one mandating many Massachusetts women receive free access to contraceptives.
Yet some Democrats believe 2018 — when Baker is up for reelection— will be the year when Trump bogs down the Swampscott Republican.
They point to the Massachusetts Victory Committee, a fund-raising vehicle that splits proceeds between the Republican National Committee and state GOP, whose support is expected to be key in helping Baker’s reelection effort.
“Governor Baker can’t escape the fact that he is fund-raising with the Republican National Committee,” said Kevin Franck, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren. “We know that Donald Trump controls that spending, and Baker is on the hook for everything the RNC does to support the Trump agenda.”
Still, if Baker has his way, it will be more local and fewer national issues that drive voters’ gubernatorial ballots next November. Also running for the Democratic nomination: former Deval Patrick budget chief Jay Gonzalez, and environmentalist and entrepreneur Robert K. Massie.
Among the other big accomplishments in 2017 he cited were progress on fighting the scourge of opioid overdoses — though he cautioned much work remained; forward momentum on reforming the Department of Children and Families; reducing the number of homeless families housed in hotels and motels at state expense; and working to expand access to high-speed internet in Western Massachusetts.Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.