The editorial board of the consistently liberal Boston Globe endorsed Republican Charlie Baker for Massachusetts governor this weekend, a piece of good news for the candidate that follows a streak of polls in which he’s led his Democratic opponent, attorney general Martha Coakley. The paper isn’t too tough on Coakley, who is a relatively unremarkable element of the Massachusetts political class, but picks Baker because they have faith in his managerial competence and want a check on the Democratic legislature. They summarize their two arguments this way:
One needn’t agree with every last one of Baker’s views to conclude that, at this time, the Republican nominee would provide the best counterpoint to the instincts of an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature. His candidacy opens up the possibility of creative tension. Facing veto-proof Democratic majorities in both houses, Baker would have no choice but to work constructively with the Legislature. Likewise, the Legislature would have to engage with Baker’s initiatives.
Perhaps ironically, in light of their differing partisan affiliations, Baker’s candidacy offers an opportunity to consolidate some of the advances made during the administration of Deval Patrick. Baker could be counted on to preserve and extend educational reforms, to ensure the rigorous administration of new funds for transportation, to knowledgeably oversee the cost-containment law now reshaping the state’s signature health care industry. At a difficult inflection point in state government, Massachusetts needs a governor who’s focused on steady management and demonstrable results.
This definitely overstates Patrick’s record of “advances” and understates what the paper noted earlier in the editorial — that Massachusetts governance has been rocked by a variety of scandals of incompetence and criminality, ranging from the state’s failed health-care exchange to corruption everywhere from the state’s probation department to the state police’s forensics lab. Patrick oversaw all of that and accomplished very little in his time as governor, but the Globe, which was as enthusiastic about Patrick’s candidacy as the rest of the state’s liberals, seems loath to admit that.
While Massachusetts has a track record of Republican governors, the Globe’s endorsement is rather surprising: The last time the paper backed a GOP gubernatorial nominee was in 1994, when it picked Bill Weld (they might look back to him to recognize what a real record of accomplishment on Beacon Hill looks like). On the other hand, the paper hasn’t been especially kind to Coakley: It endorsed an opponent of hers in the Democratic primary this year, and it endorsed another candidate in the 2009 special-election Senate primary (utterly hopeless liberal darling Alan Khazei) before she won that and went on to lose to Scott Brown.
UPDATE: Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University, has a rundown of the interesting history of the Globe’s endorsements: They used to be all over the map when it came to Democrats vs. Republicans, but that was all back when the two parties themselves were all over the map, too. The last time the Globe endorsed the more conservative candidate was 1994, when it picked Weld over the liberal Democrat Mark Roosevelt. The cycle before that, 1990, they picked the Republican Weld over the Democrat John Silber, but Silber, a legendary Boston University president, was seen as more conservative than Weld. Similarly, in 1974, they picked a very liberal Republican over then–state representative Michael Dukakis, who campaigned against tax increases (Dukakis won and raised taxes anyway).