Silly season in the Governor’s race

Charlie BakerForget the gaffes, and get to the issues.  Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker reportedly referred to Fox TV reporter Sharman Sachetti as “sweetheart,” and she and other women have taken umbrage.  Massachusetts’ National Organization for Women (NOW) has blasted his “sexist treatment of a female reporter.”  Baker said he “was kidding” and later apologized.  Sounds a lot like what happened when Democratic attorney general candidate Warren Tolman told assistant AG Maura Healey that her criticism of him was “unbecoming.” Or when then-gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney used that word with then-Treasurer Shannon O’Brien.

All these men ought to have known better, but we should be judging our candidates not on the basis of an errant slip of the tongue but on their track records, character and approach to government.  I can tell you this:  When I was involved with The Boston Club’s effort to get highly qualified women onto corporate boards, Charlie Baker headed our corporate advisory committee, working for several years to get CEO’s of public companies to walk the walk on creating access for women executives to the inner sanctum of decision making.

As Globe columnist Renee Loth wrote in September, he’s the “kind of Republican an unrepentant liberal could almost love,” a libertarian who is on the right side of issues like choice and gay rights. And, unlike his former employer (Bill Weld), Baker knows the workings of government inside and out and believes in public service (Weld ran against it and mocked those who work in government).

I think Baker did a terrific job at Harvard/Pilgrim.  As Shirley Leung opined in today’s Globe, he “saved Harvard Pilgrim. End of story.”  Now let’s move on to find out his feelings about the Partners HealthCare expansion (a topic on which Martha Coakley has not covered herself with glory) and how to keep the lid on health care costs. There are many issues and approaches to governing that may divide the candidates and help voters decide. We need a serious debate, for example, on where the people of the Commonwealth should and should not be willing to invest public dollars, but we’re wasting valuable time focusing on trivia.

Baker is basically a decent guy. Nowadays, however, with his clichéd emphasis on taxes and welfare, Baker sounds more like the old fashioned kneejerk welfare/crime/taxes Republican.  This, even though he is working hard to present the newer, softer, more affable Charlie Baker than he was when he ran four years ago. Which is the real Charlie Baker? I can’t answer that inasmuch as the praetorian guard of his press secretary won’t answer my requests to sit down with the candidate whom I have known and covered since he was Human Services Secretary back in the paleolithic era.  That, in itself, doesn’t say much for the candidate.

As for the “sweetheart” gaffe, the next woman who gets called “sweetheart” by a politician should just reel around and ask, “what is it, honey?” Let’s move on, and talk about real problems and workable solutions.

I welcome your comment in the section below.

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