Governor Charlie Baker’s pursuit for a second four-year term officially begins Saturday — and in a place he and his running mate know well.
Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn E. Polito will kick off their reelection campaign in Shrewsbury, Polito’s hometown and the site of their annual summer picnic, according to Baker’s campaign.
The event at Scandinavian Athletic Club Park is one of the first times Baker will lay out in length his case for another term. He’s had few, if any, public political events this year outside of April’s state Republican convention, where he won the party’s endorsement.
On Saturday, the Swampscott Republican is expected to emphasize his working relationship with Democrats in the Legislature, point to the state’s humming economy and low unemployment, and tout his administration’s work to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.
Baker and Polito will then travel to Gloucester, where they’re slated to attend a blues festival and a downtown block party Saturday evening. The kick-off location was not picked by chance. Worcester County has grown into a Republican base, with Baker winning nearly 57 percent of the vote there in 2014 when he topped Martha Coakley by 40,000 votes.
And while he’s formally inching onto the trail now, Baker has been building his campaign for months. He and Polito have been actively fund-raising, raising nearly $430,000 in the last two weeks of July to push their campaign accounts to a combined $12.2 million.
The governor’s campaign payroll has swelled to 29 paid staffers, easily outpacing the dozen or so he reported paying in the run-up to the 2014 primary. And last month, he reserved $4.3 million in television time from August through Election Day in both the Boston-area broadcast media market and the smaller Springfield market.
Baker faces a primary challenge from Scott Lively, a conservative Springfield pastor, on Sept. 4. Should he advance, as many expect he will, he would face the winner of two Democrats, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie.
Even while polls show that many Democrats view Baker favorably, they may belie a challenge he has long recognized: Baker must appeal not just to Republicans, but convince large swaths of independents and some Democrats that he is a better choice than the options expected to emerge from the Democratic primary.
In recent months, he has signed legislation instituting the country’s highest minimum wage and strengthening gun control — moves that illustrate how Baker is increasingly at odds with the more-conservative national Republican party. But they also help enshrine the smooth relationship he has built with the Democrat-dominated Legislature, blunting criticism from the left.
Baker, too, has already gotten outside help from the Republican Governors Association, which has poured $2.8 million into a state super PAC. The same day the RGA made its most recent donation, the group — known as the Commonwealth Future Independent Expenditure PAC — paid for $2.4 million in air time for the positive TV ad it began running this month in support of Baker.Reach Matt Stout at email@example.com.