BOSTON – Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate seeking a second term in solidly Democratic Massachusetts, fended off a primary challenge Tuesday from conservative minister Scott Lively, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump who questioned Baker’s commitment to the Republican platform.
Baker, who has distanced himself from Trump, will face in November the winner of the Democratic primary, Jay Gonzalez. He defeated Robert Massie on Tuesday.
Polling has shown Baker to be highly popular with voters, including many Democrats, throughout his first term – support he credits in part to his willingness to work with Democratic legislative leaders at the Statehouse.
Baker has said he did not cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election because he didn’t believe Trump had the “temperament” to be president, nor was he a “fan” of Hillary Clinton. He has been a frequent critic of White House policy.
Lively, who has called Trump “God’s man in the White House,” qualified for the primary ballot by receiving support from nearly 28 percent of delegates to the Republican state convention in April, well above the required 15 percent threshold. He frequently called Baker a RINO, a Republican in name only, but had little money or staff to mount a serious challenge to the well-financed incumbent.
Lively has a history of anti-LGBT sentiments. He gained notoriety for being sued by an East African advocacy group that accused him of waging a campaign to persecute gays in Uganda. He also co-authored a book espousing a theory that gay men heavily influenced Germany’s Nazi party.
“I think (Lively’s) point of view on a lot of things … especially with regard to gay people, don’t belong in public discourse or any kind of discourse,” said Baker, who otherwise paid little attention to his primary challenger.
Baker has touted his management skills and points to a $1.2 billion state budget surplus in the last fiscal year.
He’s scored points with many Democrats by signing bills such as those to protect abortion rights; prohibit discrimination against transgender people; allow guns to be temporarily removed from dangerous individuals; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and require utilities to increase reliance on renewable energy sources.
“A lot of people when I’m out and about tell me that the thing they appreciate the most about this administration is that we really do focus on the work and not on the noise,” Baker said when asked why he deserves re-election.
The governor’s Democratic challengers have cited a lack of progress in fixing some of the state’s most pressing problems, including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority – the aging Boston-area transit system is known as the T – which came under scrutiny during the crippling winter of 2015 and continues to be plagued by breakdowns and delays.
Baker says service has improved significantly during his term but acknowledges that more needs to be done.
The incumbent has raised more than $8 million for his re-election effort and reported a campaign balance of $6.6 million in mid-August, far outpacing Gonzalez, who reported balances of $367,000.
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