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2014 Gubernatorial Election - Candidate Profile Series
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.
Steven Grossman - Democrat
to entering the public eye as a nominee for governor in the 2002 primary,
Steven 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.
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
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.
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.
Mark Fisher - Tea Party Republican
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.
Born July 14, 1953, in Pittsfield and raised in North Adams, current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakle currently resides in Medford. She received a B.A., cum laude, from Williams College in 1975, and went on to earn a law degree from Boston University School of Law in 1979. After working in private practice for several years, Coakley worked as an assistant district attorney in the Lowell District Court. During this time, she served as special attorney to the Boston Organized Crime Strike Force, a directive of the U.S. Justice Department, and later became chief of child abuse prosecution in Massachusetts. In 1998, Coakley successfully campaigned to succeed Tom Reilly as Middlesex County D.A. when he was elected attorney general of the Commonwealth. During her time in the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office, Coakley first began to make a name for herself, most famously in the successful prosecution of British nanny Louise Woodward for the shaking-death of an eight-month-old baby in Newton, a story that made local and national news. Coakley also resisted freeing Kenneth Waters, a man wrongfully convicted in a 1980 murder, even after he was proven innocent via DNA evidence. The story was the subject of the 2010 movie Conviction, starring Sam Rockwell and Hillary Swank. Coakley received extensive criticism for her perceived obstinacy, poor judgment, and unwillingness to admit the justice system may have made a mistake during the original prosecution. In 2008, Coakley again courted controversy when she declined to investigate or reprimand the Commonwealth’s district attorneys for numerous false statements and improper fundraising during the public debate leading up to the vote on Ballot Question Two, an initiative to de-criminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The question ultimately passed and the controversy faded.
In 2006, Coakley was elected Massachusetts attorney general, roundly defeating her Republican opposition, and became the first woman ever to serve as attorney general of the Commonwealth. With her election coming just months before the 2007 financial collapse and subsequent recession, Coakley immediately went to work fighting for Massachusetts residents who had been taken advantage of via subprime lending, eventually winning settlements with Goldman Sachs and Fremont Investment & Loan for tens of millions of dollars. In 2009, she also challenged the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a suit, beginning a long legal battle in which DOMA was eventually found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
In 2009, following the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, Coakley filed papers in the special election to fill Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat. The contest for Kennedy’s seat drew national attention both because of his long tenure (47 years) and because of the potential effect on the balance of power in a closely divided Congress that was debating the controversial Affordable Care Act. The race came to be seen by many as a referendum on the health care reform bill, and that issue certainly played a central role in the election. After winning the Democratic primary with relative ease against a field with only one strong challenger—Michael Capuano—the general election against Republican candidate Scott Brown of Wrentham intensified the national focus on the contest, with both candidates raising extensive funds from out of state donors. Positioning himself as more of an independent rather than a strict Republican adherent, Brown was able to attract both party loyalists and a wide array of independents who make up the majority of registered voters in Massachusetts. He also had a surge in funding during the home stretch of the campaign, raising millions through Internet fundraising in the final weeks, which played a critical role in his success. Combined with several gaffes committed by Coakley throughout the campaign, including referring to Red Sox pitcher (and Brown supporter) Curt Schilling as a Yankees fan and taking a vacation just a few weeks before election day, Brown secured an upset victory in the special election, garnering 52 percent of the vote to Coakley's 47 percent. After an embarrassing defeat, Coakley returned to her work as attorney general, easily retaining the seat in the 2010 general election.
Outside of politics, Martha Coakley serves with various professional and charitable organizations throughout Massachusetts. Most notably, she is a former president of the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, has served on the Board of Directors of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Board of Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc. Coakley has also taught courses at her alma mater, Williams College, as well as B.U. Law School and the Massachusetts School of Law.
With Deval Patrick announcing his intention not to seek re-election after his second term ends, the Democratic field has become predictably crowded around an open seat. Though Coakley leads most early polling, there are several strong contenders who will give her a strong challenge come September, especially State Treasurer Steve Grossman, who has local and national party support and a strong fundraising base. Coakley's background in the legal profession may be either a burden or a benefit, depending on whether voters are looking for a departure from Governor Patrick’s leadership (Patrick’s previous experience is also largely as a lawyer). Over the coming months, we will see whether Martha Coakley has learned from the mistakes of her last bid for higher office, and if her revamped image is enough to make her a viable candidate for governor in the eyes of Massachusetts voters.
Visit www.marthacoakley.com/issuesto learn more about Martha Coakley’s platform for her gubernatorial campaign.
With the conclusion of the state Democratic Convention on
June 14, the final slate of candidates for the Democratic primary was
established. Out of a field of five, three emerged with the requisite 15
percent threshold of votes to secure a place on the ballot. State Treasurer Steven
Grossman attained 35.2 percent of the convention vote, Martha Coakley came in
second with 23.3 percent, narrowly beating out Dr. Donald Berwick, who had 22.1
percent. The first two candidates are likely familiar to voters, as they are
current holders of a statewide office and have been discussed in previous
editions of Sound Bites. Dr. Berwick
is a relative newcomer to electoral politics (though not to government
generally), and, as a formerly practicing physician, one with a less
traditional background for a would-be politician than nominees Grossman and
Don Berwick was raised in Moodus, Connecticut, where his
father was the local physician. He first came to Massachusetts as a young man
to attend Harvard College as an undergraduate. Following in his father’s
footsteps, he went on to earn an MD from Harvard Medical School and a master’s
degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government, completing his
studies in 1972. He then went to work practicing pediatric medicine at Boston
Children’s Hospital and the Harvard Community Health Plan (HCHP). After being
promoted to HCHP’s Vice President of Quality-of-Care Management in 1983, Dr. Berwick
got his first exposure to some of the inadequacies of the U.S. health care
system, and began what would become a lifelong endeavor of reforming health
care policy to improve quality of care. As health care quality measures were
scant or non-existent at the time of Dr. Berwick’s ascension to that position,
he looked to other industries, such as manufacturing, for cues on how quality
measurement could be implemented in health care. In 1989, Dr. Berwick helped
found the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a non-profit dedicated to
identifying waste, inefficiency, and errors in the health care system, what he
considered the biggest drivers of increasing cost in the system. IHI has since
expanded to include numerous programs fostering innovation, research &
development in health care, and programs in numerous countries across the
globe. IHI is perhaps most well known for the creation of the Triple Aim framework
for improving health care (a version of the Institute of Medicine’s six
improvement aims for the health care system). It consists of: 1) improving the
patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction; 2) improving
the health of populations; and 3) reducing the per capita cost of health care. This
framework has been utilized by numerous provider organizations to good effect,
and has become a benchmark for improving results in the field of health care
In 2010, Dr. Berwick was nominated by President Obama to
become Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). He faced
some controversy and pushback from conservatives for his support of the British
National Health Service (NHS) and his statements that a good health care system
is inherently a redistribution of wealth on some level. Despite support for
some of his positions from several conservatives, including former Bush-era CMS
Administrator Mark McClellan and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Dr.
Berwick faced an uphill battle to clear his nomination through Congress. He was
ultimately instated via a recess appointment in the summer of 2010. Dr. Berwick
ascended to the role at a critical juncture for health care, just as the
Affordable Care Act was beginning to be implemented. President Obama
re-nominated Dr. Berwick for the post in January 2011, but his nomination was strongly
opposed by senate Republicans, who threatened to filibuster his re-nomination.
Dr. Berwick resigned his post at CMS in December 2011.
On June 17, 2014, Dr. Berwick announced his candidacy for
the Massachusetts governor’s office. Appealing to the progressive wing of the
Democratic Party, he has announced goals for renewable energy, job creation,
and tackling poverty in the state. One of his most-talked-about plans has been
to establish a single-payer health care system in the state—a controversial aim,
given all of the numerous reforms in Massachusetts and at the federal level
over the past decade. Differentiating himself even further from the other
candidates, Dr. Berwick is also the only one to oppose casinos in Massachusetts
and is in strong support of a ballot initiative to repeal the legalization of
casino gambling in the state. He supports a minimum wage hike to $11/hour. He
also advocates for a more resilient transportation system that will improve
access across the state, with a heavy focus on expanding mass transit.
With a background in health care, as well as executive
experience managing a non-profit with a multi-million-dollar budget, and then a
federal department with an $800 billion budget, Dr. Berwick has credentials
that will appeal to many Massachusetts voters. In a race against two well-known
and established opponents who’ve held statewide office though, Dr. Berwick’s
chances may come down to his platform much more than his record.
To learn more about Berwick’s background and issues visit: www.berwickforgovernor.com.
It is a cliché in Massachusetts politics that the
Commonwealth is a fiercely liberal state throughout. This seemingly
preternatural predilection with the donkey party masks a population that in
reality spreads evenly across the political spectrum, with independents
actually making up the majority of registered voters in Massachusetts. Such a breakdown
has led to a vacillation between the parties over control of the governorship
of the Commonwealth (while the legislature has remained firmly in Democratic
hands since the 1950s). This distaste for choosing a party designation hints at
an independent streak in the voters of the Commonwealth, a disposition that two
independent candidates for governor have hoped to employ to their advantage.
Earlier in the year we focused on one of the independent
candidates for governor, venture capitalist Jeff McCormick. In this final
profile before Election Day, we examine the other prominent independent
candidate for governor, Evan Falchuk, and his hopes to derail the typical
Democratic-Republican dichotomy with a fresh voice (and possibly a new
political party) on November 4.
A resident of Newton, Falchuk is a
political outsider with a background largely in law and health care. He earned
a bachelor’s from Lehigh University and his Juris Doctor from the University of
Pennsylvania Law School. After working as an attorney for the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington, D.C., Falchuk took a leading role in
the company Best Doctors Inc., which helps patients get second opinions on
medical diagnosis from top doctors around the country. He is also a leading
member of several other health care industry organizations.
Unique among this election’s slate of candidates, Falchuk is
not only hoping to work his way into the governor’s office, but is also trying
to launch a viable third party as part of his gubernatorial campaign.
Through a strong showing at the polls on November 4, the United
Independent party has an opportunity to become an official political party
within the Commonwealth. With the platitudinous mission statement: “We believe
everyone is equal, everyone’s civil rights must be protected, and that the
government must spend our money wisely,” it is unclear what exactly the new
party’s platform is or will be. Such a banal statement could easily be ascribed
to either of the two main political parties. Falchuk himself, however, has
generally not minced words when discussing the problems he sees and the
solutions he hopes to implement. A supporter of equal marriage rights, and
pro-choice, he falls generally on the liberal side of the spectrum. Falchuk strenuously rejects the ideological
bent of the Democratic Party, though, and professes to support evidence-based and
data-driven approaches to solving issues of public policy. On the issue of health
care costs (a problem the state has tried to tackle in recent years), Falchuk
supports many of the cost-control measures that have been introduced. He is against
the continued consolidation of health care providers and insurers, as he expects
that the monopolistic tendencies of these companies will ultimately hurt patients.
Taking another swipe at the Democratic establishment, he vows to end patronage
hiring across state government, referencing the scandal in the state probation
department that has reflected poorly on the party in power. Falchuk also takes
a more fiscally conservative approach to governance than his Democratic
counterparts, announcing his strong opposition to capital projects like the $1
billion expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. He took a
shot at Governor Deval Patrick when criticizing the planned project, which would
require extensive borrowing on behalf of taxpayers with an unclear forecast for
Though it is unlikely that Falchuk (or any third-party
candidate) will pose a serious threat to the two leading candidates for
governor, there is a chance that an outside voice will bring about a more
robust debate in this election. A two-candidate race with the same trite
talking points from both parties, and little in the way of a public
conversation over how best to move the Commonwealth forward, is just what many
voters expect. It’s a situation that ends with voters leaving the voting booth
having cast a ballot for the person they dislike the least, instead of the person they
think is the best candidate. Hopefully, a candidate willing to challenge both
parties will broaden the debate, give voters a truer sense of their options,
and leave them feeling like they cast a vote for a candidate whose ideas they support.
Don’t forget to vote November 4!
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