AS REPUBLICANS hold their national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, the leading Republican in Massachusetts appears to be going in a different direction, supporting Democrats and Republicans running for statewide office.
A super PAC with close ties to Baker on Monday reported spending nearly $94,000 on 17 candidates in primary fights – 13 of them Democrats and four of them Republicans. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Majority PAC reported spending another $9,700 on behalf of five more Democrats running for House seats.
At a press conference in Belmont promoting this weekend’s tax-free holiday, Baker was asked if he still considers the Republican Party his party.
“I would describe myself as a member of sort of the pragmatic and practical Republican Party,” Baker said at the bicycle shop Wheelworks. “And I certainly think there are many colleagues of mine in state and federal government and local government who fall in the same category. And I do believe that many people, what they really want most out of their government is some demonstrated commitment to hearing all voices and then trying to do the things that you think make the most sense for the people that you’re supposed to serve and represent. One of my biggest problems with Washington is I feel like people there spend most of their time trying to convince you about who they’re against and who their enemies are and I wish they’d spend a lot more time worrying about the fact that they represent all of the people of the US.”
Baker’s pragmatic approach to politics is reflected in the recent expenditures of the Massachusetts Majority PAC, which spent a total of $103,323 over the last two weeks – 90 percent going to Democrats and 10 percent to Republicans.
Thirteen of the Democrats are incumbents, including Sens. Nicholas Collins of Boston and Walter Timilty of Milton; Reps. Paul Donato of Medford, William C. Galvin of Canton, Kevin Honan of Boston, John Lawn of Watertown, Joseph McGonagle Jr. of Everett, Frank Moran of Lawrence, Jerald Parisella of Beverly, David Rogers of Cambridge, John Rogers of Norwood, and Daniel Ryan of Boston; and Governor’s Councilor Terrence Kennedy.
Four are Democrats running for open seats, including Rob Consalvo of Boston, Jessica Giannino of Revere, and Ted Phillips of Sharon, who are running for House seats, and Padraic Rafferty of Worcester, who is running for a Governor’s Councilor seat.
The PAC is supporting John Lally of Brockton, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Michelle DuBois of Brockton.
Of the four Republicans, only one, Rep. Nicholas Boldyga of Southwick, is an incumbent. Shishan Wang of Andover is facing off against Jeffrey DuFour of Tewksbury for the right to challenge incumbent Rep. Tram Nguyen of Andover. And Kelly Pease of Westfield and Steven Xiarhos of Barnstable are vying in primaries for open House seats.
In many cases, the candidates the super PAC is supporting are running against opponents who are progressives and the progressives say the PAC’s expenditures are designed to block them and maintain the status quo.
Nichole Mossalam of Malden is running against Rep. Donato of Medford, a member of House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s leadership team. Mossalam said Donato is out of step with the district he represents. She said he is rated pro-life by Massachusetts Citizens for Life and doesn’t do enough to support regular working people.
She said the PAC donation fits right in with the lobbyist and special interest money that flows into Donato’s campaign. The Massachusetts Majority PAC has raised about $1.5 million and spent nearly $500,000 since it was formed earlier this year. The bulk of the money has come in big chunks from just 117 donors, including power brokers from the business community such as former advertising executive Jack Connors, Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish, and Wayfair executives Steven Conine and Niraj Shah, who each donated $50,000.
Jennifer Fries, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent Rep. Rogers of Cambridge, said she’s not surprised a PAC tied to Baker would be backing her opponent. “He knows I would be more progressive and more reform-minded and that’s why they’re trying to block me,” she said.
Rep. DuBois said her opponent is far more conservative than she is. “It’s pretty well known my opponent is a Democrat in name only,” she said. “He’s masquerading as a Democrat.”
DuBois said Baker finds himself caught between a Democratic-controlled Legislature that is trending increasingly progressive and a Republican Party that is shifting to the right behind President Trump. She said the PAC’s expenditures probably reflect a desire to support a middle-of-the-road status quo, whether the beneficiaries are Democrats or Republicans.
“If you’re a corporatist, you’re a corporatist,” she said.