Charlie Baker, making his second run for governor in Massachusetts, got the Republican nomination at the state party convention over the weekend. Baker narrowly avoided a primary fight – at least for now.
Republican activists at the state convention in Boston strongly backed Baker for their party’s gubernatorial nomination with 82 percent of the 2,500 delegates voting for him.
" Thank you for believing in me," Baker said to the cheering delegates.
The former healthcare company CEO and top manager in the administrations of former Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci, Baker was the party’s standard-bearer in 2010, losing to Democratic Governor Deval Patrick. Patrick is not seeking a third term.
" It is time for a direction, one in which taxpayer's interests are first and special interests are last," said Baker.
Baker stressed competency over ideology and portrayed himself as a proven manager and problem solver.
" State government does not lack resources. What it lacks is imagination. There are faster, better, cheaper ways to get things done, and when I am governor that will happen," Baker said.
Cecelia Calabrese, a delegate from Agawam, said Baker is a candidate who can appeal to Republicans as well as independents, who make up more than half of the state’s electorate.
"He's able to connect with large groups of people just as he is able to connect on a one-on-one basis."
Baker on Saturday appeared to have avoided a primary fight with conservative Tea Party movement candidate Mark Fisher. Republican Party officials said Fisher came up six votes short in the convention balloting to force a primary. Party rules require candidates to secure support from 15 percent of the convention delegates to be allowed on the primary ballot. Fisher got 14.765 percent.
Fisher’s campaign is considering filing a lawsuit claiming collusion between the state Republican Party and Baker’s campaign. Fisher, a businessman from Shrewsbury making his first run for political office, gave an impassioned speech at the convention in which he urged delegates to reject what he called the “big tent” philosophy for the party.
"Fellow Republicans we must return to our conservative roots. The time has come to bring conservatism back to Massachusetts and to tear down the big liberal tent," Fisher said.
Bill Schneeloch, Chairman of the Westfield City Republican Committee, voted for Fisher at the convention and said he would be disappointed if he fails to make the primary ballot.
" He ( Fisher) is new to the political arena , but he is somebody who has a passion for it. He speaks his heart and if you ask him a question you get a direct detailed answer."
Baker, who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage, said primary or not he plans to focus his campaign on drawing contrasts between himself and the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls.
Rob Eno, publisher of the political blog RedMassGroup, believes a primary would weaken the eventual Republican nominee.
"Less so the ideology, more so the resources that are going be expanded in a primary that I think will hurt."
Five candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for governor. Democrats will hold a state nominating convention in June.