Election guide: Governor and Lieutenant Governor
Here’s a look at the candidates on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, with biographies reported and compiled by Globe staff and correspondents. Many candidates have also filled out a brief survey at our request.
More from the 2018 election guide:
Supreme executive magistrate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, responsible for overseeing 42,000 state employees, proposing and executing a state budget approved by the Legislature, nominating judges, putting forward legislation to benefit residents, commanding the state’s armed forces, comforting Massachusetts in crises, and cheering local sports teams.
Acts as governor when governor’s chair is vacant because of death, absence from the state, or other reason; chairs meetings of the Governor’s Council, an elected body that confirms judges.
Charles D. Baker
Baker, a fixture in and around the State House for decades and long seen as wonkish star, started his career after graduating from Harvard College. He worked as communications director for two business-backed groups, first the New England Council, then the Massachusetts High Technology Council. After getting his MBA from Northwestern University, Baker worked as a consultant for the company that is now Deloitte. He then helped found and lead the economically conservative Pioneer Institute think tank. Governor William F. Weld brought Baker into state government in 1991, and the young policy aide quickly hopscotched up the ranks to eventually lead the health and human services and then budget bureaucracies. He slimmed down, privatized, and reformed parts of government, drawing opprobrium and praise, and earning a reputation as one of Massachusetts’ “brightest, brashest, and most ideological” government leaders.
Baker left for the private sector in 1998 and spent 10 years as chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, credited with pulling the company back from the edge of fiscal failure and turning it into one of the nation’s top health insurers. He stepped down to run for governor in 2010. Baker staked out ground in favor of abortion rights and gay marriage and chose an openly gay state senator as his running mate. But the Swampscott Republican pushed a bitter, anti-establishment message that tried to tap into the country’s swelling Tea Party anger and used the slogan “Had Enough?”A new, more affable candidate emerged three years later, as well as a new slogan: “Let’s be great, Massachusetts!” On the trail, Baker, sporting a sunny disposition, emphasized bipartisanship, support for cities and towns, and high-quality schools. He created contrast with Democrat Martha Coakley on taxes and fees — he said she would raise them and he wouldn’t — and won by 40,000 votes, the narrowest gubernatorial victory margin in generations.
As governor, Baker, 61, drew praise for his handling of the massive snowstorms that pummeled the state just weeks into his tenure, and immediately worked with the Democratic Legislature to close a budget gap and begin crafting what would become a nation-leading law to fight the scourge of opioid overdoses. Under pressure, he signed major progressive laws championed by Democrats, strengthening protections for transgender people, reforming the criminal justice system, tightening gun control, and creating a massive new paid leave system supported by a big new payroll tax. Critics have slammed Baker for mismanagement at the State Police, where several troopers are accused of stealing taxpayer money. And his opponents have knocked him as bereft of a broad vision for the Commonwealth. But the governor says efficient and thrifty government and connecting more and more people to the growing economy through better education, technology, and health is big vision enough. And there’s more work left for him to do, he says.
What’s your greatest professional achievement of the last decade, and why is that important for the citizens of the Commonwealth? Four years ago, I was humbled to have earned the support of the people of Massachusetts to serve as their governor. Every day since then, we have worked hard to live up to our promises to deliver the bipartisan, common-sense, results-oriented leadership they deserve. I hope that on November 6th, we can once again earn their trust to continue leading this great Commonwealth in the right direction.
What’s the most pressing issue facing the Commonwealth? Our schools are the best in the nation and our economy and communities grow stronger each day. We’re moving in the right direction but have more to do to ensure Massachusetts remains a leader. We must continue to protect taxpayers and small businesses, build more housing for working families, and improve the reliability of the MBTA so our economy remains competitive for development and job growth. We’ll continue to pursue aggressive reforms to curb the opioid epidemic and increase investments in public schools, workforce training, and higher education to help our students and families succeed.
It’s January 2019, and you’re in the corner office. What sweeping change, if any, do you try to implement in state government? We’re working on implementing several major pieces of legislation now and in the years to come, including sweeping criminal justice system reforms and a host of new treatment tools, like recovery coaches, to combat the opioid epidemic. We’ll be training caregivers in addressing dementia and Alzheimer’s to make Massachusetts more age-friendly. We will continue to make historic and targeted investments in our public schools to address health care and transportation costs, and work closely with teachers and the Legislature on a bipartisan, empowerment zone model to help close the achievement gap.
What are the two greatest differences between you and your opponent? From new nation-leading reforms and resources for recovery services to combat the opioid epidemic, to historic investments in our public schools and more spending on early education, and overhauling the MBTA so that it can spend more than it ever has on improving reliability for riders, we have consistently backed up our words and priorities with the actions and investments that make a difference.
What’s one question that you’d like to ask your opponent about his record? I admire anyone willing to put themselves out there for public service, but voters deserve real, credible answers on how much my opponent will raise taxes to deliver on his promises and rhetoric.
Where’s your favorite place to take a day trip in Massachusetts? Whatever your interest is, there’s plenty to do – we enjoy getting out to the Big E in the fall, the countless local feasts and festivals that offer a lot of family fun, going for a walk in the Blue Hills or Lynn Woods, and taking in the great beaches in Gloucester or along the Cape.
Karyn E. Polito
A conservative state representative, Polito fought hard against gay marriage and pressed for “right to know” legislation backed by groups that oppose abortion rights. She lost a 2010 bid for state treasurer and joined Baker’s ticket four years later. As his running mate and, later, the state’s lieutenant governor, Polito has embraced being a moderate. She’s focused on being the administration’s top liaison to cities and towns and an advocate for efforts to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault. A Shrewsbury native and resident, she is deeply connected in Worcester County, a key enclave of GOP votes for any statewide candidate. State House insiders see Polito, 51, as eying the corner office.
What makes you uniquely qualified to be lieutenant governor? I have been proud to serve as lieutenant governor since 2015, having previously served five terms in the state Legislature and as a local selectman from Shrewsbury, where our family also owns and operates a small business. Governor Baker and I have partnered to deliver bipartisan, common sense, results-oriented leadership that is reforming state government, and making our economy, communities, schools and families stronger than ever. We believe with four more years, we have a tremendous opportunity to help Massachusetts continue this forward growth and momentum.
How do you view the responsibilities of lieutenant governor? Governor Baker and I have an effective partnership that ensures our focus on major priorities and results for the people of Massachusetts. I have been proud to lead our efforts to ensure state government is responsive to the unique needs of all 351 cities and towns and is doing all it can to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence and expand learning opportunities in STEM. We have also developed a positive working relationship with the Governor’s Council, whose meetings I chair, to ensure a thorough process for staffing a diverse, talented, fair, and impartial judicial system.
If reelected, what’s the first major policy item on your agenda, and how do you plan to make it happen? I’ll continue prioritizing stronger relationships with local municipal and school officials, giving the cities and towns who drive our success and strength a seat at the table and the flexible tools necessary to develop community-based solutions and Community Compact best practices for unlocking future growth. This includes leveraging the economic and environmental assets of our 78 coastal communities. I will also continue my focus on how we can help to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence, support survivors and families, and hold perpetrators accountable to make our communities safer.
What’s the most underrated part about living and working in Massachusetts? Having been to all 351 cities and towns, there are a lot of diverse options for places to live, work, and visit. We’ve put a lot of time into helping communities leverage their strengths and address their challenges, with local solutions, so they can continue to attract new growth and development.
Jay M. Gonzalez
The son of an Ohio-born woman and Spain-born man who met when she was on a foreign exchange program, Gonzalez grew up in Ohio, went to Dartmouth College, and, after stints as a private sector bond lawyer, joined the administration of Governor Deval Patrick. He first served as a deputy in the state budget office before being promoted to the state’s most powerful unelected executive branch position: secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. Taking the reins of the state budget a decade after Baker held the same post, Gonzalez helped guide the state through three post-recession years, figuring out how to spend about $30 billion a year in taxpayer money.
Gonzalez headed back to the private sector in 2013, becoming an executive at CeltiCare Health Plan of Massachusetts, and later becoming president and chief executive of that insurer as well as one in New Hampshire. Gonzalez, 47, of Needham, pitches himself as a progressive — pressing for a living wage, debt-free college, single-payer health care, a transportation system people can count on — anchored by his deep knowledge of how Massachusetts leaders can turn ideas into reality. “I have leadership experience in state government getting big things done,” he said recently.
What’s your greatest professional achievement of the last decade, and why is that important for the citizens of the Commonwealth? When I served as Governor Deval Patrick’s secretary of administration and finance, I successfully managed the budget through the Great Recession. During that time, we earned the highest bond ratings in state history for our responsible fiscal management. Meanwhile, Governor Baker has been slapped with a bond rating downgrade for the first time in 30 years because of his poor fiscal management.
What’s the most pressing issue facing the Commonwealth? Our broken transportation system. We are now stuck in traffic for longer and paying higher fares for disabled trains and reduced bus service. We have among the longest commute times in the country, and the condition of our infrastructure is near the bottom. It affects people’s quality of life every single day, and it threatens our economic growth. We need to fix and improve our transportation system all across this state with a sense of urgency.
It’s January 2019, and you’re in the corner office. What sweeping change, if any, do you try to implement in state government? I will pursue an ambitious agenda in a number of areas, including: a) fixing and improving our broken transportation system so people can depend on it to get to work on time; b) fully funding our public schools and giving every child access to high-quality, affordable childcare and preschool; c) more aggressively fighting the opioid crisis; d) delivering a single-payer health care system that is simpler, cheaper and gives everyone access to the health care services they need; and e) being a leader in taking on climate change.
What are the two greatest differences between you and your opponent? Unlike Governor Baker who is too satisfied with the status quo, I’ll provide the bold leadership we need to make a difference for working families being left behind. For example, I have a plan to raise $3B from the wealthy to fix our education and transportation systems.
What’s one question that you’d like to ask your opponent about his record? Why are you supporting a man for the US Senate who has pledged to vote with Donald Trump 100% of the time?
Where’s your favorite place to take a day trip in Massachusetts? One of the great things about Massachusetts is how many incredible places we have to experience and enjoy. If I had to pick just one, it would be spending an afternoon with friends and family at Fenway taking in a Red Sox game.
A lawyer who served as health care chief in the office of the Massachusetts attorney general and worked in the Obama White House as a senior adviser in the Office of Science Technology Policy and in the Department of Commerce, Palfrey, 44, has framed his desire to serve in the context of the national political climate. He recently recalled watching the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year as he was considering a run for lieutenant governor. “I asked myself: What am I going to tell my children and my grandchildren that I did when our American values were so obviously under attack,” the Weston resident said. “And I want to be able to tell them that we stood up, and we fought back, and we pounded our fists on the table and screamed until we were hoarse: that this isn’t the kind of America we want to live in.” If elected as a Democratic governor’s number two, he said, he would focus on connecting state government with cities and towns, helping Massachusetts navigate federal relationships, and pressing for judges who will protect civil rights.
What makes you uniquely qualified to be lieutenant governor? I have spent my career standing up for consumers and fighting for social justice. I served under President Obama as senior adviser for Jobs Competitiveness in the White House Office of Science Technology Policy and as the first chief of the Health Care Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. I have also led several anti-poverty nonprofit organizations. My campaign has been endorsed by the Massachusetts Democratic Party and numerous progressive groups, labor unions, and elected officials.
How do you view the responsibilities of lieutenant governor? The LG must have the experience and skills to step in on day one as acting governor if needed. The LG should also be an ally and advocate for cities and towns who focuses on solving the challenges that affect ordinary people at the local level such as education, transportation, housing costs, and the opioid crisis. If elected, my central focus will be the fight against inequality and poverty. I will also use my role as chair of the Governor’s Council and my experience as a lawyer to promote civil rights and social justice through judicial appointments and criminal justice reform.
If elected, what’s the first major policy item on your agenda, and how do you plan to make it happen? The first item on my agenda would be reforming the state’s education funding formula to ensure that every student regardless of race or zip code receives a world-class education. Massachusetts has some of the best schools in the country, including the public elementary schools my own children attend. But reform is badly needed to ensure that all schools and teachers across the state have the resources they need. I would also prioritize moving toward a single payer health care system, fighting the opioid crisis, making college and housing more affordable, and fighting climate change.
What’s the most underrated part about living and working in Massachusetts? Throughout its history, Massachusetts has led on the fight for social justice, from the American Revolution to the abolitionist movement to equal marriage and universal access to health care. I think it is time for Massachusetts to lead again.
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The Globe’s primary guide was written by Globe correspondents Matt Stout, Marek Mazurek, Sophia Eppolito, Morgan Hughes and Jamie Halper, as well as Joshua Miller, Maria Cramer, Michael Levenson, Milton J. Valencia, Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, Stephanie Ebbert, and James Pindell of the Globe staff.
It was compiled and edited by Shira Center, and produced by Christina Prignano.