Baker's not in the stratosphere anymoreOctober 20, 2021
Presented by the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work
REPUBLICANS BUCK BAKER — It’s no secret GOP Gov. Charlie Baker is more popular with Democrats and independents in Massachusetts than he is among his own party.
A new poll reinforces that idea. Fifty-four percent of respondents to a Public Policy Polling survey of likely 2022 Republican primary voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of Baker, compared to 30 percent who view him favorably. Baker trailed former Republican state Rep. Geoff Diehl in a hypothetical gubernatorial primary 29-50, with 21 percent of respondents undecided, according to results shared first with POLITICO.
Don’t get carried away. Public Policy Polling is a Democratic-oriented firm, and the automated survey of Republicans and independents was conducted for the Democratic Governors Association, which obviously has a stake in retaking the Massachusetts governor’s office in 2022.
Still, Baker’s typically sky-high approval ratings haven’t reached those heights recently. Baker saw 56 percent favorability among likely Boston voters in last week’s poll from MassINC Polling Group, which pollster Steve Koczela said on last week’s episode of The Horse Race is “a pretty darn good number” for a Republican in a blue city, “it’s just as not as stratospheric as what we’re used to seeing for Charlie Baker.” The latest Covid States Project survey showed 64 percent of respondents approved of Baker’s handling of the pandemic, the second-highest rating for any governor but still down from the 80 percent approval he had in April 2020.
GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Take a seat.
Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George delivered their sharpest and most substantive debate yet while sitting just feet apart from each other on a podium-less stage last night. Here are some takeaways:
WU FINALLY GETS THE FRONTRUNNER TREATMENT — Wu’s been considered the leading candidate since before last month’s preliminary election. But she’s escaped major scrutiny until now.
Wu was pressed last night on when she’d make the MBTA free — she’ll expand the free bus pilot in her first year as mayor, but didn’t commit to an overall date — and the lack of appetite for such a move on Beacon HIll. That was just by NBC10’s Alison King.
Essaibi George, trying to claw her way back from two polls that’ve shown her at a 32-point deficit, piled on. She hammered Wu’s policies as unachievable, accused her of “taking credit” for some of her work on the council (Wu said that’s false), and even dumped some oppo along the way.
“The city of Boston deserves better,” Wu said, linking Essaibi George’s “negative attacks” to former President Donald Trump.
IS IT TOO LATE FOR ESSAIBI GEORGE? — Last week’s debate didn’t move the needle in the polls, and a new Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC10 Boston survey showed only 7 percent of respondents were undecided, so it’s unclear whether the second will make a dent in Wu’s lofty lead. Essaibi George made her sharpest case yet against Wu, but with early voting starting Saturday she’s running out of time to close a yawning gap.
TRIPPED UP ON TAXES — Both candidates fumbled a question about their household incomes. Wu said she and her husband brought in over $200,000, but uncharacteristically struggled when it came to answering whether that puts her in Boston’s upper class. Essaibi George said she and her husband are part of the upper crust, but worked to separate her $100,000-plus council earnings from those of her developer husband, which she declined to share on air.
There was also some confusion over whether Essaibi George had released her 2020 federal tax return. Her individual filing, shared with POLITICO, showed a total income of $76,823. Wu released her federal tax return months ago, showing a combined total income of $221,761 for her and her husband. Neither candidate has their tax return available on her website.
TODAY — Gov. Charlie Baker participates in the virtual Providers’ Council Annual Convention and Expo at 9:30 a.m. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito attends the LIFT HARBOR Program Legislative Breakfast at 8:45 a.m. in Worcester and participates in several events related to STEM week culminating with the New England Patriots Hall of Fame Family STEM Night at 6 p.m. State Sen. Becca Rausch and public health experts host a virtual briefing on vaccine safety, hesitancy and misinformation at 10 a.m. Wu hosts a media availability at 11 a.m. at City Hall Plaza and a virtual phonebank with Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 6:30 p.m.
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– “Massachusetts coronavirus cases increase by 1,888 with breakthrough cases dropping,” by Alexi Cohan, Boston Herald: “Massachusetts health officials on Tuesday reported 1,888 new coronavirus cases and 3,431 breakthrough cases, which is a dip from the previous week.”
– “Cabinet Proposed to Better Coordinate Children’s Services,” by Colin A. Young, State House News Service (paywall): “[State Rep. Kay Khan, a] longtime chairwoman of the Legislature's committee most focused on the welfare of children in Massachusetts proposed Tuesday that lawmakers require the governor to convene a ‘children's Cabinet’ to make sure the different parts of state government that affect the lives of kids leave no one behind.”
– “Springfield state Rep. Orlando Ramos will file legislation requiring Eversource pay property taxes in full,” by Elizabeth Román, Springfield Republican: “As cities and towns across the state demand that Eversource pay the full amount of property taxes it owes [state Rep. Orlando Ramos] is looking to file an amendment to the law that would require them to pay."
– “Legislative leaders hear from local organizations on pandemic-related changes to tourism,” by Danny Jin, Berkshire Eagle: “Leaders of local culture and tourism organizations say they have begun to see younger visitors, more year-round traffic, more digital guests and more interest in outdoor recreation."
– “Massachusetts to decide ‘by early next week’ on future of school mask mandate,” by Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com: “The top official in charge of K-12 public schools in Massachusetts hinted Tuesday that his decision on extending the statewide school mask mandate is coming soon. ‘By early next week, a decision will be made whether or not as to continue masks,’ Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said during a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting Tuesday morning.”
– “Boston to crack down on tent encampments on Methadone Mile,” by Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald: “The city of Boston will begin to look to get people out of tents on Mass and Cass and into beds, Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s administration is announcing as conditions in the troubled area continue to worsen. … The Boston Public Health Commission also on Tuesday moved to declare that unsheltered homelessness and substance abuse are a public health crisis, which gives the BPHC more authority to act. The administration will create a ‘central command structure’ led by the city and state Departments of Health & Humans Services to coordinate the response, tracking shelter and treatment options.”
– “Boston's Homeless Services See New Reach Under Pandemic-Induced Changes,” by Hannah Reale, GBH News: “Shelter providers and the city expanded options for Boston’s homeless population to stem the spread of COVID — and that brought an added bonus of better connecting people with housing and treatment.”
– “Violence In Boston director arrested by the feds on pandemic fraud charges,” by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: “A director for the Violence In Boston nonprofit has been arrested by the feds on pandemic unemployment and mortgage fraud charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Clark Grant, 38, of Taunton, is accused of collecting more than $67,000 in pandemic unemployment benefits while at the same time working and taking home a full-time salary of close to $70,000 a year, according to federal court documents. He is the husband of Monica Cannon-Grant, president and founder of Violence In Boston and an outspoken community activist.”
– The Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter, GBH News’ Saraya Wintersmith and a three-reporter team at the Boston Globe have your second debate blow-by-blows.
– “With campaign donations, city workers have staked out their preferred mayoral candidate,” by Elizabeth Koh, Boston Globe: “More educators are backing Michelle Wu, and public safety workers are pushing for Annissa Essaibi George. … Essaibi George has pulled more than $150,000 from hundreds of police officers and firefighters in Boston — a total roughly 50 times that of Wu, who has been a critic of the city’s police department. … Meanwhile, Wu has garnered donations from three times as many Boston public school employees than her rival, though on a much smaller scale than the public safety sector’s support for Essaibi George.”
– “Boston City Council candidates answer six big questions facing the city,” by Boston Globe staff: “The Globe asked all 23 candidates six questions about major issues facing Boston today.”
– Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and City Councilor Michelle Wu are hosting a fundraiser for Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey to help her “in closing her campaign,” per an email sent to supporters yesterday. Tickets for the virtual event for Janey, who didn’t make it through the preliminary election and has since endorsed Wu, run from $100 to $1,000. Janey’s campaign didn’t respond to questions about why she needs the money or if her campaign is in debt. It wasn’t at the end of September, per her last campaign finance report.
– SHOT: “Wu’s fare-free T: Fanciful notion or strategic thinking?” by Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine: “Beacon Hill leaders are showing little interest in one of Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu’s campaign priorities – making the MBTA fare free. At a State House press conference on Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Ron Mariano, and Senate President Karen Spilka were asked whether they support Wu’s call for the elimination of fares on the T. Baker said no, Mariano indicated he had other priorities for the T, and Spilka didn’t answer the question."
– CHASER: “Fare-free Worcester buses called bright spot in transit recovery,” by Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine: “The bus system in Worcester, which went fare free in March 2020, has built back its ridership during COVID faster than any other transit system in Massachusetts, according to a new report.”
– Mapmakers who took heat from advocates for not drawing a majority-minority Senate district that combined Brockton and Randolph have put forward a new district that puts Brockton with nearly half of Randolph and Avon, and sheds Hanover and Plympton from its bounds. It’s not exactly what advocates asked for, but it would double the number of majority-minority districts in the Senate from three to six.
After pushback from labor unions Senate mapmakers will also keep all of Dorchester’s Ward 16 precincts in Boston rather than splitting some into a suburban district, state Sen. William Brownsberger, who leads the Senate redistricting effort, said. Haverhill will remain split despite advocates' pleas, but Brownsberger said the new map would be “very modestly different” in terms of which precincts are being combined with Lawrence and Methuen to create a Latino-centric district.
Brownsberger expects the Senate to vote on the map next week. The House plans to vote on its redistricting plan on Thursday, which includes some minor tweaks, according to the Boston Globe’s Matt Stout and Emma Platoff.
– “Redrawn Amherst districts give more power to BIPOC voters,” by Scott Merzbach, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “More clout for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities in local elections will come if Amherst’s voting maps are redrawn as recommended by an advisory committee. ... two councilors said they are concerned about attempting to keep University of Massachusetts students, and other college students, out of municipal decision-making.”
– State Rep. Claire Cronin, the House majority leader, is one step closer to being the next U.S. ambassador to Ireland after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced her nomination to the full Senate yesterday. Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, also saw her nomination to serve as ambassador to Austria advance.
– “These 5 experts have been appointed to the Massachusetts Cannabis Advisory Board, including former NETA president Amanda Rositano and Laury Lucien of Major Bloom,” by Melissa Hanson, MassLive: “The new appointees and reappointments are Amanda Rositano, Laury C. Lucien, Alan Balsam, Marion McNabb and Michael Dundas.”
– FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Gerly Adrien has endorsed Fred Capone for mayor of Everett against incumbent Mayor Carlo DeMaria, per Capone’s campaign. Adrien, Everett’s first Black city councilor, finished third in last month’s preliminary mayoral election with 24 percent of the vote. Capone finished second with 31 percent, while DeMaria earned 45 percent. “My candidacy for Mayor of Everett was inspired by the many, everyday people who feel that City Hall, and the business that takes place there, is not for them,” Adrien said in a statement, adding, “we have the opportunity to seize this historic moment and answer the voters’ mandate for change by electing Fred Capone.”
– “Driscoll, Dibble offer different visions for Salem in debate,” by Dustin Luca, Salem News: “Mayor Kim Driscoll and her challenger Steve Dibble shared a debate stage for the first time Monday night and touched on everything from the climate crisis to launching a Witch City-themed cryptocurrency.”
– “Holyoke Soldiers’ Home trustees joust over future governance,” by Stephanie Barry, Springfield Republican: “Trustees were split on whether the soldiers’ home and its counterpart in Chelsea should remain under the authority of the state Department of Veterans’ Services or shift to the Department of Public Health, which oversees every other long-term care and medical facility in the commonwealth. The change was among the recommendations of a legislative panel that investigated a COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke home last year in which nearly 80 veterans lost their lives. The panel also recommended abolishing the local boards of trustees.”
– “Senator Ted Cruz wants to create immigration ports of entry in Rhode Island and Massachusetts,” by Alexa Gagosz and Carlos R. Muñoz, Boston Globe: “Senator Ted Cruz on Tuesday touted his little-known ‘Stop the SURGE Act,’ which calls for new ports of entry to be established in deeply Democratic parts of New England — and requires that people trying to enter the U.S. through the southern border be relocated from sectors in Texas to these newly created ports for ‘processing.’”
– “CNN anchor John King reveals he has multiple sclerosis and emphasizes the importance of vaccines,” by Julia Taliesin, Boston.com: “CNN anchor John King surprised viewers Tuesday when he shared — live on air — that he has multiple sclerosis, while making a point about the importance of vaccines to protect the immunocompromised.”
– “After 10 years, Lawrence wants to take back control of its schools. But Commissioner Riley is showing no signs of letting go of state receivership,” by Felicia Gans, Boston Globe: “State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley [the former superintendent/receiver of Lawrence schools] on Tuesday gave no indication that he would give up control of the Lawrence school district, one day after the School Committee voted to ask him to end the state’s 10-year receivership of the struggling school system.”
– “Concord’s Middlesex School invited Nikole Hannah-Jones to speak during Black History Month. Then canceled it,” by Amanda Kaufman and John R. Ellement, Boston Globe: “Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist who conceived The 1619 Project, said Tuesday that she was recently disinvited from speaking at Middlesex School, a private boarding school in Concord, during Black History Month."
– “Worcester urged to prosecute those responsible for vandalizing Columbus statue,” by Anoushka Dalmia, Worcester Telegram & Gazette: “The Italian-American Alliance is calling on the city to identify and prosecute the people responsible for vandalizing the statue of Christopher Columbus outside Union Station last week.”
– “The case of the Martha’s Vineyard heiress and the Florida psychic who took her for millions,” by Alexander Huls, Boston Globe: “Nobody is quite sure when Vera Pratt began to believe that demons had entered her body and lodged near her right shoulder blade. But when they did, Pratt couldn’t help but wonder what part of her life they wouldn’t hurt.”
– “Massachusetts 2021 high school graduates had best ACT scores in the nation, education officials say,” by Melissa Hanson, MassLive: “Massachusetts high school students who graduated in 2021 had the highest composite score in the nation on the ACT test, education officials announced Tuesday."
– Meanwhile, in Wellesley: "National Conservative group files lawsuit against Wellesley Public Schools," by Diti Kohli, Boston Globe; "In Wellesley, an attack spurs outrage, protest over school bullying," by Elizabeth Koh, Boston Globe.
– IN MEMORIAM: “Former Springfield Mayor Charles V. Ryan dies at 94,” by Stephanie Barry, Springfield Republican.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY – to Deputy British Consul General Tom Nickalls and Michael Clark, former senior advisor to state Sen. Eric Lesser and current New England progressive outreach director for AIPAC.
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