This wasn't how I imagined the campaign, back in
1984 when I first wished Charlie Baker would run for governor.
I was able to picture him older, still honest,
competent, still a natural leader, good sense of humor, and lots of
fun actually; but, of course, more experienced.
However, I pictured his opponent as a later
version of Mike Dukakis, the governor at the time: Arrogantly
spending the revenues from the "temporary" income-tax hike and
sales-tax increase of his previous term, while spending the state
into a fiscal crisis that would engender another "temporary"
income-tax hike, gas-tax increase, and expansion of the sales tax.
I imagined Charlie smiling but firm, and the
Dukakis-like opponent sneering, as Dukakis did when he talked about
taxpayer activists like me.
I could hardly wait then for my "Baker for
Governor" bumper sticker. Now it's "Baker/Tisei" on my car and my
So far so good. Charlie's career has been as
noteworthy as I'd imagined in the early '80s when he was working for
the Massachusetts High Technology Council, which was defending Prop.
2½ from Dukakis, working to repeal the
Democratic governor's "temporary" surtax on our income, and trying
to build a stronger Massachusetts economy.
But the opposition looks nothing like what I
envisioned back then.
Watching the first televised debate on WBZ last
week, I didn't have to resist the urge to yell at the television
set. I must admit that I like not only Charlie, but Tim, Deval and
Jill as well, and would enjoy living next door to any of them. (My
own version of a response to the classic campaign question: "Which
candidate would you most want to have a beer with?")
Jill Stein of the Green-Rainbow Party and I could
probably find something to talk about over coffee, but there would
be no point in discussing her "soak the rich" liberalism, which has
little traction when voters just want someone to create jobs.
However, she did bring up the cronyism issue on which Independent
candidate Tim Cahill is most vulnerable because of the
recently-exposed parole department scandal that he once implied was
acceptable business as usual.
A problem with having been a Democratic
politician in Massachusetts is that they tend to get used to the bad
policies inherent in a one-party system. I don't doubt the sincerity
of Cahill's conversion to Independent, though; I know other
Democrats who are also fed up with the way things are going.
As a Quincy city councilor, Cahill refused to
publicly oppose the 1990 ballot question to repeal the record
Dukakis tax hikes; because of his neutrality, the teachers' union
boycotted his diner. I recall Jerry Williams, Howie Carr and I
urging people to eat there.
However, I later recall Cahill praising Deval
Patrick for opposing a later attempt to cut the income-tax rate. He
has since said he regrets that opposition, as he saw so many
taxpayer dollars being wasted, and then the sales tax rate hiked
Yeah, well, I regret it more, having personally
worked hard to repeal the Dukakis "temporary" income-tax hike for 20
It was Patrick's opposition to the income-tax
rollback that led to his promise to reduce property taxes during the
2006 campaign. He was asked what he thought about the voter-passed
rate reduction of the income tax to 5 percent, which had been halted
by the Legislature at 5.3 percent. Not wanting to just dismiss the
will of the voters, Patrick said that he thought they'd rather have
a property-tax cut, which was probably true.
The media, in thrall to Patrick's "Together We
Can" 2006 campaign, never pressed him on how that property tax
reduction would work. So Patrick was elected, and two years later we
got a sales-tax hike, a new alcohol tax, and meals and
telecommunication taxes instead. Gov. Patrick seems to be a nice
person, but I hope voters won't forget that broken and violated
In fairness, I'd note that the police unions were
picketing him at the recent gubernatorial debate because of
Patrick's politically courageous opposition to police details — a
position that most of the public supports. He also took first steps
toward public-employee pension reform.
So he hasn't been the worst governor in recent
Massachusetts history (that would be Dukakis). And Tim Cahill could,
in a different year, be a potentially OK governor himself.
But Massachusetts, partly because of the
one-party rule that has created fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis,
once again needs a Weld-style Republican to create some balance and
stand for major reforms. Bill Weld actually did cut the state
budget, not just the rate of growth which is what Deval Patrick
calls "cutting spending."
Charlie Baker has the unique background to
address this year's unique economic problems, made worse because of
the national situation that requires extraordinary skill to work
around. And because of his experience as a selectman, I'd anticipate
a much more vigorous effort to give communities more control over
their pension and health insurance costs.
Baker is the only one of the four candidates to
take the "no new taxes" pledge that is essential to keeping the
Legislature focused on necessary reforms, instead of planning yet
another tax hike.