2014 Gubernatorial Election - Candidate Profiles Series

2014 Gubernatorial Election - Candidate Profile Series

Charlie Baker - Republican

Steve Grossman - Democrat

Mark Fisher - Tea Party Republican

Charlie Baker - Republican

Amidst the end of year shopping furor, 2014 looms large, lurking in the background of the frenetic holiday season. As the New Year approaches, public attention will quickly pivot to the biggest events of the coming months. In Massachusetts politics, the most significant is the 2014 gubernatorial election, which will be the first wide-open race since 2006 with Governor Deval Patrick’s announcement that he will not seek a third term. Over the coming months, Sound Bites will focus on each of the candidates in turn, with a profile of one individual in every edition. This series is not an endorsement of any candidate by the Massachusetts Dental Society, and is meant solely as an information tool for our members. For our inaugural edition, we will focus on the 2010 Republican nominee and current front-runner for the 2014 Republican nomination, Charlie Baker.

While a slew of contenders have already announced their intentions to compete for the Democratic nomination, the Republican primary is shaping up to be far less competitive. Baker announced his attention to run for governor in early September, a post he ran for unsuccessfully against incumbent Deval Patrick in 2010, losing by 6 percent (Patrick-1,108,404; Baker-962,848; Cahill-183,933). He has also already formed a ticket with Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury, a former state representative for the 11th Worcester district (Shrewsbury and precincts 1 and 4 of Westborough) and candidate for state treasurer in 2010.

Baker, a Swampscott native who grew up in Needham, earned a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Northwestern. Starting his career at the libertarian think-tank the Pioneer Institute in the mid 1980s, Baker made his first foray into government when Governor William Weld appointed him undersecretary of Health and Human Services in 1991. The next year he was promoted to secretary of the department, and in 1994 chosen to be secretary of administration and finance, a job he continued under the Cellucci administration. It is for this period that Baker is most well known, as he was responsible for the Big Dig financing plan. The project was ultimately successful, but cost overruns and shoddy construction from a variety of contractors resulted in enormous debt for the Commonwealth, and left a black cloud over its legacy. Baker disputes his role in the final costs given the myriad mistakes on the construction side of the venture and the other state officials responsible for signing off on the financing plan.

After leaving his post on Beacon Hill in 1998, Baker was hired as CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. Less than a year later, he became president of its parent company, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a non-profit health insurance company. Joining the business when it was the midst of two consecutive years of losses in the tens of millions, Baker promptly revamped the company, raising premiums, cutting workers, and renegotiating contracts with health care providers. Harvard Pilgrim quickly turned around and had 24 consecutive profitable quarters under his tutelage. Since his failed bid for governor in 2010, Baker served one term as a selectman in Swampscott, and has been “executive in residence” at Catalyst Partners, a venture capital firm based in Cambridge.

Though Baker has yet to unveil his policy platform for the 2014 election, some information can be surmised from his previous campaign about what a revamped Baker agenda will probably entail. He campaigned as a fiscal reformer who planned to balance the state budget, cut and consolidate state agencies, and lower taxes by sticking to a 5-5-5 standard (i.e. 5 percent sales tax, 5 percent income tax, and 5 percent business tax rates), and he opposes an increase in the gas tax. Baker also declared he would institute an immediate freeze on hiring and on regulations as soon as he took office. Other fiscal proposals include a reform of the pension system and unemployment insurance (UI) system. Reform of UI would include charging different rates for employers who have a stable workforce history with lower turnover versus those who regularly lay off workers, and extending the time period for eligibility for UI. Baker opposed cutting local aid, but offered that a restructuring of its distribution would reduce waste and produce more measurable outcomes. He advocated block grants to municipalities, with specific projects and goals tied to those grants. Baker’s contention that his plan could balance the budget without reducing local aid or raising taxes was a point of heavy contention with Governor Patrick, who argued Baker’s plan didn’t add up.

Baker received criticism for refusing to take a position on the issue of global warming and climate change. He did, however, make an energy plan for Massachusetts one of the key components of his message, emphasizing the need to lessen dependence on foreign oil. He pushed for hydro-electric power as a top option for renewable energy, citing Hydro Quebec specifically as a firm that could bring such technology to the state. Conversely he opposed the Cape Wind Project because he believed it would raise electricity rates for Massachusetts residents. Baker also proposed a waiver of the sales tax for energy efficient products and upgrades to encourage their adoption.

There are a great deal of independent voters in Massachusetts, a fact former Senator Scott Brown was able to exploit to his advantage in his special election, and Baker likely hopes to do the same. Whether he will be successful is still very much unknown. In a state whose congressional delegation is 100 percent Democratic and where the state house is roughly 85 percent Democrat, Baker has an uphill battle to make his case for governor; he also faces a veto-proof Democratic majority should he attain the office. He already shows signs of having learned from his previous foray, focusing less on the negatives of the Patrick Administration and more on his own proposals for the state. Joining forces with former State Rep. Karyn Polito, who adds fundraising power and may help attract women voters—who voted for Patrick over Baker by 24 percent in 2010—also appears to be a shrewd move that could pay dividends come November.

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Steven Grossman - Democrat

Over the coming months, Sound Bites will focus on each of the candidates in the Massachusetts governor race, profiling one individual in every edition. This series is not an endorsement of any candidate by the Massachusetts Dental Society, and is meant exclusively as an informational tool for our members. With our second article in this series, we will look at one of the early front-runners for the Democratic nomination, current treasurer and receiver-general of the Commonwealth, Steven Grossman.

Prior to entering the public eye as a nominee for governor in the 2002 primary, Grossman spent most of his career in the private sector. Born in Newton in 1946, Grossman attended Phillips Exeter Academy before matriculating to Princeton University. After graduating from Princeton and completing his MBA at Harvard University, along with a term of service in the U.S. Army Reserves, Grossman worked at investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. In 1974, he left the financial industry to join his family’s paper manufacturing business in Somerville, the Massachusetts Envelope Company, becoming the third generation to run the company founded by his grandfather Max Grossman in 1910. The family’s involvement in politics dates all the way back to this time, as political campaigns were some of Max Grossman’s first customers. The founder also worked on behalf of the mayoral campaign for John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, grandfather of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and later the campaign of the second longest-serving mayor of Boston, James Michael Curley. After taking over the family business from his father Edgar and Uncle Jerome, Steve Grossman built the Massachusetts Envelope Company into the Grossman Marketing Group, a multi-faceted company with seven offices spread across the United States with high-profile clients ranging from the Bruins and Celtics to financial behemoth JP Morgan Chase. Many of these clients also do regular business with the Commonwealth, and the Treasury and the Massachusetts Lottery in particular. The Boston Globe, among others, has brought up the issue that these relationships may present a conflict-of-interest. Although Grossman has regularly filed disclosure letters with the state ethics commission and consulted with them regularly when such connections have surfaced, he has not recused himself from any major decisions as state treasurer involving companies that work with Grossman Marketing Group (see Boston Globe, December 16, 2013, ). As the gubernatorial election develops, it should become clearer how and whether voters will respond to this topic. 


Grossman entered politics during Michael Dukakis’s 1987 presidential campaign, and subsequently was elected chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party in 1990, at a pivotal point for the organization. With the party reeling from a loss to William Weld for the governorship and mired in debt, Grossman is credited with doing a great deal to revive its influence across the Commonwealth. He is also credited with producing a similar turnaround in the National Democratic Party(DNC) in the late 1990s after he was appointed chairman. In 1992, Grossman became chairman of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful lobbying organization that advocates pro-Israel policies to the federal government. Grossman played an important role working with President Bill Clinton to garner American support for the Oslo Accords, which was the first attempt at negotiating a peace deal between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the state of Israel. While both sides agreed to the deal, it proved to be short-lived, as the truce ultimately deteriorated with the outbreak of renewed violence in the Second Intifada in 2000. Grossman stepped down as AIPAC chairman in 1997.


In 2002, Grossman made his first run at elected office, entering the Democratic primary for governor of Massachusetts. He received the endorsement of President Clinton, but eventually dropped out before the primary date, receiving 0.8 percent of the vote. In 2010, Grossman was elected treasurer and receiver-general of Massachusetts, succeeding Tim Cahill and defeating Republican State Representative Karyn Polito, who is the current presumptive nominee for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket in 2014.


As he rolls out his platform for his gubernatorial campaign, early indications are that Grossman’s focus will be on job creation and economic growth, drawing on his experience as treasurer and a business owner as proof of his ability to improve both areas, should he be elected. One of his initial proposals has been a promise to grow manufacturing jobs in the Commonwealth, with a commitment to create 50,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector over the next five years. Building on Governor Deval Patrick’s initiatives in clean energy, Grossman also promises to continue and build on those achievements to help the state’s environment, as well as its job market. His plan would include upgrades in public education, especially higher education and vocational training, and enhancements to the state infrastructure meant to drive down transportation costs. Grossman also advocates for improvements for K-12 education that would include extending the school day, expanding the use of technology in classrooms, growing pre-K educational opportunities for all children, and lowering classroom sizes overall.


As the Democratic primary approaches, Steven Grossman’s history within the party and his extensive business experience should help his chances in a state that leans heavily Democratic, and where jobs and the economy are still the defining issue six years into the recession. He will also have his work cut out for him in a crowded field for the open nomination, one that includes at least one other statewide office holder and three other highly qualified Democrats. Though he currently holds the lead for fundraising early on in this campaign, the contest is far from over.

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Mark Fisher - Tea Party Republican

Over the coming months, Sound Bites will focus on each of the gubernatorial candidates in turn, with a profile of one individual in every edition. This series is not an endorsement of any candidate by the Massachusetts Dental Society, and is meant solely as an information tool for our members. Our first profiles examined Charlie Baker and Steven Grossman. With our third article in this ongoing series, we look at one of the lesser-known candidates for the Republican nomination, Tea Party member Mark Fisher of Shrewsbury.

Mark Fisher, 56, grew up in Westfield, Massachusetts. After graduating high school, he worked at Old Colony Envelope Company (as a union member) and used his earnings to finance his associate in science degree in nuclear engineering technology from Hartford State Technical College. Fisher then worked at a nuclear power plant for a year before returning to Massachusetts to pursue an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Upon graduation, he began working at Raytheon Corp., a stalwart of Massachusetts industry. While there, he attended night classes at WPI, where he earned two post-graduate degrees: a master’s in manufacturing engineering and an MBA. He continued working for various manufacturing firms in Massachusetts until 2008, when he was laid off. At that time, Fisher purchased a manufacturing business in Auburn. Merchant’s Fabrication is a custom metal manufacturing company that does work for a variety of industries, including aerospace, medical, and food & beverage companies.

Most candidates entering the fray of a statewide election aim to make a splash by framing their campaign around a broad, pressing issue such as education, economic growth, or government reform. Fisher’s campaign took a decidedly different approach, opening his candidacy with the promise to end tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike, one of many promises he says have been made and, subsequently, broken to the people of Massachusetts. As a member of the Tea Party, Fisher adheres to the ideology of limited government, cutting taxes, toughening the state’s stance on illegal immigration, cutting funding for social programs like food stamps, and creating a more business-friendly environment in the state.

In the months since he announced his candidacy, Fisher has sought to create a contrast between himself and the Republican front-runner Charlie Baker. He has done so on a number of issues that Baker has taken a distinctly liberal stance on, including gay marriage (Baker supports) and the minimum wage (Baker supports raising it).

As with any outside candidate who does not have roots in the state party, Fisher has a formidable challenge ahead of him just to get on the primary ballot against Baker, let alone become the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Nonetheless, there is a contingent of the population that is more conservative than the candidates the party has nominated over the last few years. If he can tap into this group at the convention, Fisher may be able to get on the primary ballot. A primary race against a candidate like Baker—who has extensive party ties, fundraising power, and name recognition—will be a more difficult task still.

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