Charlie Baker Focuses on Bipartisanship in State of the Commonwealth

The Republican governor highlighted the gains his administration has made while emphasizing teamwork within the Massachusetts legislature.

Charlie Baker speaks at the 2018 State of the Commonwealth

Photo via State House News Service

America’s most popular governor is even getting accolades from some political opponents.

Gov. Charlie Baker used Tuesday night’s State of the Commonwealth address to highlight the steady gains his administration has made in fixing Massachusetts’ biggest problems. Unsurprisingly, as one of the only Republicans in a room full of Democrats, he avoided mentioning President Trump by name. And by all accounts, the speech worked.

Not known for his fiery rhetoric or passionate idealistic appeals, Baker generally focused on uncontroversial issues like helping the homeless, improving services for the state’s most vulnerable citizens, and investing private dollars back into communities. Trump, and his bare-knuckled tactics, came up only obliquely, as the governor called for avoiding name-calling, long a method the president has employed against his political enemies.

“We live in a great state filled with creative, community-minded, hard-working, and decent people,” the governor said. “And what they want from us is opportunity, possibility, and hope. Not noise. Not name-calling. And not finger-pointing.”

Despite the partisan gridlock hamstringing Washington, Baker said he has successfully worked with the Democrat-dominated state legislature to affect meaningful change in the Commonwealth on a broad range of issues. Whether it’s working to curb the opioid epidemic or enhancing veterans’ benefits, the branches of Massachusetts government work as a team, Baker said.

And one of Baker’s political counterparts, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, echoed those sentiments. The Winthrop Democrat told the Boston Globe that the governor “talked about what we were able to do together, unlike many other states where we see partisanship getting involved.” Similarly, acting Senate President Harriette Chandler, a Democrat from Worcester, also applauded the governor’s ability to reach across the aisle and said the speech was “very uplifting,” according to the Globe.

The governor, who is up for reelection in November, also outlined several priorities within the new budget proposal he will unveil on Wednesday. Among the initiatives is more than $83 million in funding for the Department of Mental Health and an extra $2 million for fighting climate change.

Baker’s Democratic gubernatorial challengers were naturally less inclined to praise his rhetoric. Jay Gonzalez, the former state budget official, said to Politico he thought the speech was “status quo,” while Robert Massie, an entrepreneur, told the Globe the address spoke “only to a certain percentage of the population.”

Current polls point toward another term for Baker, who has enjoyed strong approval ratings for years, despite his conservative affiliation in liberal Massachusetts. To close his address, the governor hearkened back to the broad support he has consistently cobbled together and looked ahead at his hopes for the state.

“A strong Commonwealth is built on a foundation of strong communities… and a belief that anything is possible,” Baker said. “It’s our job to create the cohesion envisioned by those who came before us. To move this state forward. To protect and fight for its interests and its people. And to never forget that we are the lucky ones.”