Republicans in Western Massachusetts are reacting to Charlie Baker’s announcement that he will once again run for governor.
In a YouTube video released Wednesday by his campaign, former gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker announced he is throwing his hat in the ring once again. The Republican lost to incumbent Governor Deval Patrick in 2010, receiving 42 percent of the vote. Mike Case is the GOP State Committeeman for the Berkshire, Hampden and Franklin District. He says Baker stands a better chance of winning this time around.
“For one Deval Patrick isn’t running, the Lieutenant Governor isn’t running,” said Case. “The Democratic Party is actually reaching deep into the trenches to get a candidate, so it bodes pretty well. It’s still an uphill battle in Massachusetts.”
Jim Bronson heads the Berkshire County Republican Association. He says Baker was liked by voters in 2010, but faced a difficult task running against Patrick.
“We were up against a popular governor, so I’m not sure that the message was ringing home as true or as loudly as it will this time,” said Bronson.
Bronson says Baker learned a lot from his 2010 campaign and believes he will be able to focus on his strengths including economic policy, having served as the state’s Secretary of Administration and Finance from 1994 to 1998.
“If you remember Bill Clinton, ‘It’s the economy stupid’ and that’s where Charlie is really, really good,” Bronson said. “His message wasn’t heard super loud last time because it’s hard to get somebody from another party to necessarily listen to you. If he focuses, as I’m sure he will, on economic policy and job creation, he’ll do just fine."
There are about 10,000 registered Republican voters in Berkshire County out of roughly 90,000 total registered voters, according to results from 2012. Despite being largely Democratic, the state has a history of electing Republicans statewide, including ex-Senator Scott Brown and a string of governors, most recently Mitt Romney in 2002. Bronson says Baker stands a good chance of gaining support beyond the GOP because of his moderate social platform.
“He had homosexual guy run with him as his Lieutenant Governor candidate last time,” Bronson said. “He’s certainly isn’t a guy out there making a big issue of making a platform on social issues, that’s just not where he is. He’s not a social platform guy and that’s good because in a state like ours, that can be very difficult if you come at it with a conservative social platform.”
Bronson and Case agree the key for Baker and other potential GOP candidates are the independent voters in Berkshire County, who made up roughly 53 percent of registered voters last year. Case says he would like to see Baker make himself more available to people in the Berkshires.
“I personally would like to see him come out west more, but I say that to all of the politicians no matter what party,” Case said. “They forget that we’re out here. Even in the Springfield area they consider themselves western Massachusetts and we’re just the New York border. It’s hard to get Berkshire County recognized. I pray that people go in with an open mind. To me, as a Republican out here, that’s the biggest problem we have out here. People say ‘Oh, he’s a Republican so I don’t like him’ and it’s just plain wrong, because there’s a lot of good Republicans out there.”
While neither has seen anything official yet, both say they have heard rumors of other potential Republican candidates. Bronson says State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr might be one of them.
"You talk about an optimistic Republican leader, that’s Bruce Tarr."