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From candidates’ spouses, unusual campaign encounters

Martha Coakley with her husband, retired police Deputy Superintendent Thomas F. O'Connor, Jr.Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe/File 2013/Globe Freelance

We asked the spouses of the candidates for governor to tell us: a bit about themselves; their role in the election; the most unexpected moment on the campaign trail; and something voters might not know about the candidates. Here’s what we heard:

Lauren Baker, wife of Republican candidate Charlie Baker

Bio: I grew up in Connecticut, graduated from Northwestern University (B.A. English ’83) and its Kellogg Graduate School of Management (MBA, ’86). I then enjoyed a career in advertising first in New York, then for Hill, Holliday in Boston. In late 1999, I decided to stay home with our three kids and focus on volunteering. I am a trustee and the VP for institutional advancement for Marian Court College. I am a board member at the American Red Cross of Massachusetts and a founding member of the Red Cross Tiffany Circle Society of Women Leaders, and a member of the board of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health.

Role in the election: I am spending increasingly more time on the campaign trail. So far this summer, I have spent about 24 hours a week working on fundraising, Women for Charlie planning and events. I have been to about 30 Women for Charlie meet-and-greets and met more than 1,000 women at these events. Not to mention all the fundraisers, parades and political events I can fit in the schedule. I really enjoy getting out there and meeting people; that’s the best part of campaigning. If I’m doing it right, I’ll have something nearly every night.


Unexpected moment: Deciding to take the trash out before getting ready to go to work. It is 7 a.m., chilly, I’m in my pajamas, looking, well, like I’m in my pajamas, but I am only going to be outside long enough to dash to the end of the driveway and back. Just as I reach the back door, I hear “Mrs. Baker!” I turn around to find a reporter rushing up to tell me all about an important freelance piece he hoped to write with Charlie. Luckily, Charlie had already left and there were no cameras. Lesson learned.


Tale about your spouse: Once while working in state government, he had borrowed a state car for a meeting. He would not stop on the way home to buy milk for the family because that wasn’t official state business. Instead he drove home, past the store, got our car and went out and got milk. He is such a Boy Scout. Sometimes, it’s kind of a pain.

Ann Berwick, wife of Democratic candidate Don Berwick:

Bio: I started my career as a legal services lawyer, followed by work in both the private sector (consulting, law firm) and public sector (chief of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Division, undersecretary for energy in the Patrick Administration and, currently, Department of Public Utilities chair).

Don and I met as biology lab partners freshman year in college and have been married for 38 years. We have four children — two boys and two girls — and three young grandsons. Our family’s main recreation has always been hiking, backpacking, and skiing, and our children seem to be carrying on that tradition, even with their own young children.

Role in the election: Because I work for state government and am subject to the Commonwealth’s ethics rules, I’m not permitted to do any fundraising. In an abundance of caution, I also avoid going to any fundraising events. For that reason, and also because my job as DPU chair is quite demanding, I spend a limited amount of time on the campaign trail. I’ve attended a few candidates’ forums, and also “meet and greet” events for Don. I was also a delegate at the Democratic convention.


Unexpected moment: In some ways it’s not unexpected — because I know what a truly special guy Don is — but it’s been gratifying to see the outpouring of support for him on the campaign trail. People clearly appreciate his intelligence, warmth, integrity, and commitment to the progressive values he stands for. Someone said recently that there are two kinds of voters in Massachusetts: those who support Don and those who haven’t met him yet. There’s a lot of truth in that.

Tale about your spouse: Don is great with children. You might expect this, since he’s a pediatrician, but his magic with kids is really unusual. Our 2- and 5-year-old grandsons like nothing better than to trail him, with the constant refrain of “What are you doing, Poppa?” Interestingly, he doesn’t just get down on the floor and play but, instead, just includes them in what he’s doing at the moment — cooking, fixing something, or whatever. Within minutes of meeting him, children are adoring.

Felicia Falchuk, wife of independent candidate Evan Falchuk:

Bio: Evan and I live in Auburndale with our three kids. I began my career as a lawyer and recently returned to Boston College to get my master’s in social work. I hope to work as a clinician to help people deal with everyday challenges. For the past several years I’ve volunteered at Burr Elementary where I chaired the Creative Arts and Sciences Committee. I also volunteered with Jewish Family and Children’s Services. In my free time, I love practicing yoga, going to the beach, and spending time with my family at Fenway Park and our kids’ games.


Role in the election: After our three kids, Evan’s campaign and my social work commitments represent my No. 1 priority. I’ve so enjoyed getting to march with him in parades throughout Massachusetts, and co-hosting campaign events and Women for Falchuk gatherings. I’ve found the candidate forums fascinating; I get to hear the all the candidates’ positions, not just Evan’s. My favorite campaign promotion project so far? I just had my Mini shrink-wrapped with Falchuk for Governor and United Independent Party logos. It’s fun for me and the kids to drive around to help promote the campaign any way we can.

Unexpected moment: The most unexpected moments have probably been the kinds of comments you hear from voters along parade routes. I’ve heard everything from “I don’t shake hands with ‘the enemy!’ ” to a group of guys at the Boston Pride parade telling me “Your husband is HOT!” So much voter feedback of all types is gracious and encouraging, but there are other times when it becomes a challenge to know exactly how to respond. All of this gives me a window into how many different voter mindsets are out there. I find it fascinating.


Tale about your spouse: Evan is a backyard amateur astronomer. In the summer, he can often be found in the backyard setting up his telescope. Over the years, he’s shown the kids and me everything from the rings of Saturn and moons of Jupiter, to different phases of Venus and craters on the moon – very cool stuff. He recently had them all run outside when he read on Twitter that the space station was passing overhead and we could all see it. Everyday fun things like this build such special memories.

Barbara Wallace Grossman, wife of Democratic candidate Steve Grossman

Bio: I’m a professor of drama at Tufts University, a theater historian, director, voice specialist and author (“Funny Woman: The Life and Times of Fanny Brice” and “A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage”). A presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts (1994-99) and the US Holocaust Memorial Council (2000-05), I serve as vice chair of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and on the American Repertory Theater’s board of advisers. I graduated with honors from Smith College and received an MFA in directing from Boston University, a Ph.D. in drama from Tufts, and a certificate in voice from the A.R.T. Institute. Steve and I have five wonderful children (David and Mary Jo, Benjamin and Rebecca, and Joshua) and five extraordinary grandchildren (Will, Carina, Luke, Madeleine, and Jack).

Role in the election: Now that the academic year is over, Steve’s campaign is my primary focus. I was proud to vote for him as a delegate to the Democratic convention and to have advocated for him at meetings with delegates throughout the State. Winning that convention was thrilling! I speak on his behalf at Democratic meetings, attend social gatherings, and work hard to recruit an army of passionate activists for him. I suggested the campaign’s “Believe in Steve” button and am co-chairing an effort called “Women Believe in Steve.” I’ll keep speaking, making phone calls, and knocking on doors until the primary and the general election in November.

Unexpected moment: I was shopping at a local market recently when an employee stocking the produce asked about my “Believe in Steve” button. After I told him that Steve, my husband, is running for governor, he asked about his views. I mentioned several including Steve’s belief that drug addiction should be treated as a health care, rather than a criminal justice, issue. That really resonated with him. He told me he’s a former drug addict who’s been clean for 12 years. He offered to help Steve in his hometown and said he’ll vote for him. That to me is what this campaign is about: taking every opportunity to engage with people about issues they care deeply about and working with them to ensure a better future for us all.

Tale about your spouse: Steve has long been committed to empowering women and that began with me. Shortly after we returned from our honeymoon almost 45 years ago, I offered to iron his underwear (as my mother sometimes did for my father). He looked at me incredulously and said he’d never ask me to do that. I’ve been grateful to him ever since! He shares the housework and does most of the grocery shopping. He’s a better cook than I am and recently shared his favorite grilled chicken recipe with culinary arts students at Beverly High School. He does the dishes at lightning speed. He also loves kayaking.

Christine McCormick, wife of independent candidate Jeff McCormick

Bio: I grew up in Hopkinton, one of four daughters. My father was a postal worker and my mother worked as an assistant to the high school principal. Through an academic scholarship, I studied architecture at the University of Miami and then put myself through graduate school at the University of Virginia. Jeff proposed to me at the finish line of the 2000 Boston Marathon. We had three kids in three years. Now I am raising our children and managing what is an incredibly busy household, but I make time for the causes I am passionate about: education, at-risk youth, anti-violence programs, and the arts.

Role in the election: I have attended a wide range of events including parades and festivals, policy conferences, and small gatherings in people’s homes. Some of my favorite events thus far: El Jolgorio Navideno at which Jeff and I had such a great time meeting people (not to mention the music and food); the National Policy Summit on Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; the Gateway Cities annual award ceremony honoring community leaders in great cities like New Bedford and Springfield; the neighborhood fundraiser for fallen firefighters Michael Kennedy and Edward Walsh, which was unforgettable. Small gatherings are my favorite, because there I see Jeff at his best. Small venues give him the opportunity to listen to people’s stories and concerns and address their questions in depth. His compassion, knowledge of the issues, and informed solutions truly resonate with voters.

Unexpected moment: Because Jeff and I are new to politics, nearly everything about the campaign is unusual and unexpected! I am still surprised and delighted by how open and friendly people are on the campaign trail, and how receptive they are to Jeff’s message of independent leadership. People are dissatisfied with the status quo, but rather than apathy, I see optimism and hunger for change.

I’ve watched people of every age, color, and demographic hug Jeff, shake his hand and thank him for daring to represent the independent voice. Having grown up in Massachusetts and choosing to raise my family here, I know how intelligent, kind, and engaged the people of this state are. They are passionate advocates for what they believe in, and they want to be heard.

Nobody listens more intently than Jeff. As our kids tell him at campaign stops, “Dad, you’ve got to keep moving. You’ve got lots more people to meet!”

Tale about your spouse: Jeff was a small-town boy who arrived in Boston fresh out of college with only $800 in his pocket, and everything he has accomplished is the product of his determination, intelligence, and confidence. Jeff believes wholeheartedly in the American dream. It is his story and he believes it can be anyone’s story, given the opportunity. He is turned off by political rhetoric that divides rather than unites. Restoring a sense of optimism is what motivated Jeff to step away from his business to assure that the American dream remains as real today as it was for him and his immigrant grandparents. Jeff is as kindhearted as he is determined, and he remains unchanged by his success. He still does the dishes and takes out the trash. He still hand-selects Christmas gifts for his co-workers. He still reads to our children before bed. He is still the man I married 14 years ago.

Tom O’Connor, husband of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley

Bio: I was born and raised in Stamford, Conn. My father was a captain with the Stamford Fire Department, and my mother taught 1st grade in Stamford Public Schools. I moved to Massachusetts in the mid-1970s to join the Cambridge Police Department.

I worked for over 30 years with the CPD, in a variety of roles including patrol officer, sector sergeant, shift commander in the patrol division, supervisor of the Internal Affairs Unit, commander of the Investigations Section and retiring with the rank of deputy superintendent. It was during my time with the CPD that I met Martha, who was serving as assistant district attorney in Middlesex County.

Role in the election: Most weekends I am on the campaign trail with Martha, and sometimes during the week depending on the nature of the event. Oftentimes the weekend events are large events like parades or fairs, but I have also spent a lot of time with Martha meeting with people one-on-one in their homes across the state, listening to their concerns and to the issues that are impacting the people of Massachusetts.

Unexpected moment: One comical incident stands out for me. I was with Martha, going door-to-door meeting with folks and asking them to consider Martha’s candidacy. We knocked on the door of a man in his mid-20s, whose nap we had apparently disturbed, and he opened the door and greeted us pleasantly while cradling a very large orange cat in his arms and wearing only white jockey shorts. After exchanging a few pleasantries we left him with a campaign pamphlet and moved on.

Tale about your spouse: I am almost universally met with surprise, if not astonishment, when I tell folks what a good chef Martha is. She has a great culinary talent and enjoys exercising her creative side by experimenting and preparing new dishes. I am grateful to be the beneficiary!