Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Baker Sticks With Familiar Tunes


Suffolk Law's lunch series with gubernatorial candidates is at once inconvenient and worth the trip. Yesterday's showcased almost-certain GOP nominee-to-be Charles Duane Baker Jr., known to all here as Charlie.

Check 'im out: Suffolk's Rappaport Center is very efficient about posting vids of these sessions. Yesterday's with Baker is here.

Pic note: Any photos I run in this blog are Creative Commons. You are welcome to them, just make one mention of Mike Ball if you use one.

I won't recap his show in detail. Use the like above to hear it all.

At these luncheon thingummies, some of the usual suspects are inevitable. The moderator will invariably call on the special-interest types to get their predictable questions in the air. The candidate format is 10 minutes to pitch and self-intro, then about an hour for Q&A (no speeches, thank you very much).

We who attend regularly know there'll be a tobacco tax/smoking cessation one from an anti-cancer advocate. Almost always, a land-conservation guy will tunnel down to an obscure law that needs enforcement or tweaking. Former AG Scott Harshbarger will try to get a commitment to hold a vote to overturn casino approval. These brief hazing incidents don't seem to bother the candidates, whom I suspect have been warned beforehand.

By the bye, Baker would be happy to have a plebiscite on repealing the casino approval. He doesn't see such gambling on top of the lottery as a wise or viable economic-development strategy.

The overwhelming impression Baker left yesterday is that he's not making promises of big changes. He's not giving other contenders targets. Likewise, his campaign site is sparse, asking for money and not providing any platform yet.

He returned repeatedly at lunch to the same few, neither controversial nor innovative, concepts. For example, his biggie, which he iterated three or four times, is that:
  • He has visited many MA towns
  • In each, everyone agrees on which public schools wew best
  • Therefore, good education is not limited to a few wealthy communities
  • Further, the conclusion is to analyze what a good school does and replicate in lesser schools
That's old and obvious stuff, but he loves it. He is clearly proud of his insight and you'll hear that repeatedly during his campaign.

Likewise, you'll hear repeatedly that his parents were on opposite political poles. He and siblings grew up hearing Dem/GOP debates at meals. He uses that as a metaphor suggesting he learned how to get workable compromise across political divides.

As close as he got to controversies or strong positions were:

  1. The recent state budget should not have touched the rainy-day fund
  2. Local municipalities need to streamline permitting and otherwise make starting or expanding businesses easier
  3. A three-year college degree would lower costs
  4. We somehow need to align health-procedure costs so the range is not huge among facilities
  5. He doesn't want recreational pot
  6. MA cities need to each stand on its own and not see itself as a satellite of another city, particularly Boston

Again, he offered no sweeping, inspiringly named program or set of planks. In this second go at governor, he still pushes himself as a pragmatist who rises above party affiliation to get stuff done. He admits to being in the Weld/Cellucci model, a social liberal and fiscal conservative. (Hey, that sounds like most MA Dem pols.)

In a shallower, yet obvious, note, he has been in training. He used to look too much like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. As a fellow pasty-faced white guy, I empathize.

He's toned and trimmed. He looks healthy and pretty for 57. He has an unfortunate taste in shirts and ties (lose the pastels, which accent your sallowness, Chuck), but seems vital enough.

In 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick beat Baker, but only by six points. The new, improved contender seems to figure it's his time. Failing in a race for a major office never stamps LOSER on your forehead here.

I'll be intrigued to see whether he clings to his pragmatism/collaboration ideal. If the Dem candidate has big ideas and big promises, he may have to be less spongy.


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