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Baker officially launches campaign for second term

Governor Charlie Baker greeted supporters at a picnic in Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito’s hometown of Shrewsbury.
Governor Charlie Baker greeted supporters at a picnic in Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito’s hometown of Shrewsbury.(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

SHREWSBURY — Governor Charlie Baker touted his record on jobs, education, and tackling the opioid crisis as he and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito formally announced their reelection campaign at their annual picnic in Polito’s hometown on Saturday afternoon.

The Swampscott Republican laid out his case for a second four-year term to more than 200 supporters including fellow Republican candidates and elected officials at Scandinavian Athletic Club Park, painting a picture of an administration that has stewarded tax dollars carefully while investing in services that improve people’s day-to-day quality of life.

Baker said he had “started with a $1 billion structural deficit and just closed the books on a year when we had a billion-dollar surplus — and we did not raise taxes to get from here to there.”

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His administration, Baker said, has increased spending on schools and public transportation while reducing bureaucracy, reforming business practices, and seeking “smarter, and better, and more effective ways to deliver services to the people of Massachusetts.”

And it has reached across the aisle to work with Democrats in the state Legislature to make those changes, he said.

If that vision of government sounds a little boring, Baker is fine with that.

“You want entertainment? Watch Netflix!” he said. “If you want an administration that’s going to focus on delivering results to the people of Massachusetts day after day, week after week, month after month, that’s us, boys and girls. That’s us.”

In asking voters to support a second Baker term, the governor said he needs more time to complete his work on the crisis of opioid addiction, “so that we can beat this scourge into the ground once and for all.”

Some of the rally’s most enthusiastic applause came when Baker, who has been criticized by some conservatives in his own party for taking positions that they consider too liberal, forcefully reiterated his opposition to the effort to limit state and local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

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“We will always stand against making Massachusetts a ‘sanctuary state,’ ” he said.

Citing the deaths of police officers Ronald Tarentino of Auburn, Sean Gannon of Yarmouth, and Michael Chesna of Weymouth, Baker also said he plans to introduce legislation that would help courts keep dangerous accused criminals off the streets.

Polito, who spoke before Baker, said they share a vision of a state government that works to improve residents’ daily lives.

She said Saturday’s picnic called to mind her great-grandfather Francesco Polito, who immigrated to the United States from Sicily “in search of a better life for his family. And it was that whole notion of creating a better life, of increasing the quality of life for the people of the community, is how I started my public service.”

The incumbents have so far done little publicly to present their case for reelection since Baker won the state Republican party’s endorsement in April over Scott Lively, a Springfield pastor. On Saturday, Baker was again critical of his opponent’s ultraconservative statements.

“I’ve said before that many of his views — especially with respect to the gay community — are appalling, and . . . I’m looking forward to the day after Labor Day,” Baker told reporters.

Lively, who in April garnered 27.7 percent of delegates’ votes, compared to Baker’s 69.8 percent, questioned Baker’s knowledge of his views. “A man of Governor Bakers stature and influence has a duty to ensure that his characterizations of others are fair and accurate,” Lively said in a text message. “Having now slandered me repeatedly with vague insinuations that he holds personal knowledge about my views sufficient to justify poisoning the public against me, he should be aggressively challenged by the media to defend his statements in a debate setting with the one he has accused.”Baker, whom many national polls name as the most popular governor in the country, will face the winner of the Democrat primary — Jay Gonzalez or Bob Massie — if he prevails in the primary election on Sept. 4.

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Worcester residents Donna and Bob Winant said they came to the picnic to support Baker because his backing of reforms at Bridgewater State Hospital have improved the quality of life for their grandson, a patient there. He is now allowed to wear his own clothing rather than a uniform and to have meals with his family inside the institution, they said.

Baker has “made super changes, from a Department of Correction model to a clinically, medically based model. . . . Charlie Baker is a hero,” said Donna Winant, 68. “There were administrations previous to him that said they were going to make these changes. These changes were never made until Charlie Baker. I am supporting him 110 percent.”

 Governor Charlie Baker spoke on Saturday.
Governor Charlie Baker spoke on Saturday.(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.