Republican Charlie Baker will be the next governor of Massachusetts, defeating Democratic Attorney Martha Coakely– her second high-profile defeat.
Coakley famously blew a 30-point lead to lose a special election for U.S. Senate to Republican Scott Brown. During that race, she was frequently criticized for being disengaged and acting as if she was entitled to win based on her party affiliation. Brown, by contrast, emphasized that it was the “people’s seat.”
There were fewer gaffes in Coakley’s gubernatorial campaign. She misstated the state’s gas tax as being only 10 cents a gallon (it’s actually 24 cents). Her state-issued car was seen parked in a tow zone during political fundraisers. This time around, she didn’t take a vacation during the peak of the campaign or call any fabled Red Sox pitchers “Yankees fans.”
But Coakley still struggled to keep the Democratic base enthusiastic. The Boston Globe endorsed Baker, their first endorsement for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 20 years. The pattern from Coakley’s failed Senate campaign began to repeat itself: a polling lead of as much as 29 points turned into a deficit of as many nine. (RELATED: Martha Coakley Is A Very Bad Politician)
Baker, a health care executive and former official in two Republican gubernatorial administrations, followed a timeworn path to GOP success in Massachusetts. He ran as an anti-tax-hike fiscal conservative but strong social liberal, with ads featuring his gay brother and having his daughter talk up his pro-choice bona fides.
But he had his own past brush with defeat. Baker was the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 and he lost by six points.
While not a terrible performance for a Republican by Massachusetts standards — he exceeded 40 percent of the vote and held incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick to less than 50 percent — Patrick had been considered vulnerable and the race was never truly competitive.
Baker ran a much less formal campaign this time around, and capitalized on independents’ discontent with one-party rule on Beacon Hill. Unaffiliated voters now outnumber Democrats in the commonwealth.
After the last Democratic governor, Michael Dukakis, it took 16 years for Massachusetts to elect another. Baker’s win means it will be another four years at least.