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Charlie Baker

Charlie Baker American businessman and politician

American businessman and politician
Charlie Baker
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American businessman and politician
A.K.A. Charles D. Baker, Jr., Charles D. Baker, Charles Baker, Charles Duane ...
Is Businessperson Politician
From United States of America
Type Business Politics
Gender male
Birth 13 November 1956, Elmira
Age: 63 years
Politics Republican Party
Father: Charles D. Baker
The details


Charles Duane "Charlie" Baker, Jr. (born November 13, 1956), is an American businessman and the 72nd and current Governor of Massachusetts, having been sworn into office on January 8, 2015. He was a cabinet official under two Massachusetts governors, spent ten years as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and was also the Republican nominee for governor of Massachusetts in an unsuccessful 2010 bid.
Raised in Needham, Massachusetts, Baker is the son of a Republican executive official who worked under Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. He graduated from Harvard College and obtained an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. In 1991, he became Massachusetts undersecretary of health and human services under Governor William Weld. In 1992, he was appointed secretary of health and human services of Massachusetts. He later served as secretary of administration and finance under Weld and his successor, Paul Cellucci.
After working in government for eight years, Baker left to become CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and later Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a non-profit health benefits company. During this time he served three years as a selectman of Swampscott, Massachusetts, and considered a run for governor in 2006. He stepped down in July 2009 to run for governor on a platform of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. He was unopposed in the Republican primary, but lost in the general election to the Democratic incumbent, Deval Patrick. Running for governor again, on November 4, 2014, he won the general election against Democrat Martha Coakley.

Early life and career

Charles Duane Baker, Jr., was born November 13, 1956, in Elmira, New York. Baker is of English ancestry, and his family has been in what is now the northeastern United States since the colonial era. He is the fourth generation in the family to bear his name: His great-grandfather, Charles D. Baker (1846–1934), was an assistant United States attorney in New York, who served several years in the New York State Assembly. His grandfather, Charles D. Baker, Jr. (c. 1890–1971), was a prominent politician in Newburyport, Massachusetts. His father, Charles Duane Baker (born 1928), a Harvard graduate, was a buyer for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, while his mother, Alice Elizabeth "Betty" (née Ghormley), remained at home. Baker grew up with two younger brothers, Jonathan and Alex in Needham, Massachusetts, with a second home in Rockport. He grew up playing football, hockey, and baseball; he has described his childhood as "pretty all-American".

Baker's father was a conservative Republican, his mother a liberal Democrat, and the family was often drawn into political arguments at the dinner table. His father became vice president of Harbridge House, a Boston management consulting firm, in 1965. In 1969, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where the elder Baker was named deputy undersecretary of the Department of Transportation in the Nixon administration, and the next year became the department's assistant secretary for policy and international affairs. His father also served as undersecretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the Reagan administration.

The family returned to Needham in 1971, where Baker attended Needham High School. In high school he served on the student council, played basketball, and joined DeMolay International, a youth fraternity organization. In a Bay State Conference championship basketball game, a ball he inbounded with 2 seconds left on the clock, was tipped away by a player from Dedham High School, causing Needham to lose by a single point.

He reluctantly attended Harvard College "because of the brand", graduating in 1979, with a BA in English. He later reflected negatively on the experience, writing, "With a few exceptions ... those four years are ones I would rather forget." He then attended Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, where he received an MBA in management. After graduating, Baker served as corporate communications director for the Massachusetts High Technology Council.

State government career

In the late 1980s, Baker was hired as codirector of the newly founded Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based libertarian think tank. Lovett C. "Pete" Peters, the institute's founder, later recommended him to William Weld, the incoming Republican Governor of Massachusetts. Weld took office in January 1991 and hired him as Undersecretary of Health and Human Services.

In cutting back state programs and social services, Baker caused controversy from early on. However, some government officials called him an "innovator" and "one of the big stars among the secretariats and the agencies". Baker was promoted to Secretary of Health and Human Services in November 1992, and was later made Secretary of Administration and Finance, a position he continued to hold after Weld resigned in 1997 and Paul Cellucci took over as acting governor. In mid-1998, Cellucci offered him the lieutenant governor spot on the ticket, but Baker declined.

As Secretary of Administration and Finance, Baker was a main architect of the Big Dig financing plan. In 1997 the federal government was planning to cut funding for the Big Dig by $300 million per year. The state set up a trust and sold Grant Anticipation Notes (GANs) to investors. The notes were secured by promising future federal highway funds. As federal highway dollars are awarded to Massachusetts, the money is used to pay off the GANs.

According to a 2007 blue-ribbon panel, the cost overruns of the Big Dig, combined with Baker's plan for financing them, ultimately left the state transportation system underfunded by $1 billion a year. Baker defended his plan as responsible, effective, and based on previous government officials' good-faith assurances that the Big Dig would be built on time and on budget. However, as he was developing the plan, Baker had also had to take into account that Governor Cellucci was dead-set against any new taxes or fees. Former State Transportation Secretary James J. Kerasiotes, the public face of the Big Dig, praised Baker's work on the financing and said, "We were caught in a confluence of events," adding that "Charlie had a job to do, and he did his job and he did it well".

Health industry career

In September 1998, Baker left state government and became CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a New England–based physicians' group. In May 1999, he was named president and CEO of Harvard Vanguard's parent company, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a non-profit health benefits organization. The company had lost $58 million in 1998 and was predicted to lose over $90 million in 1999. Baker responded by cutting the workforce by 90 people, increasing premiums, establishing new contracts with Massachusetts physicians, reassessing the company's financial structure, and outsourcing its information technology. During his tenure as CEO, the company had 24 profitable quarters in a row and earned recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance as its choice for America's Best Health Plan for five straight years.

In mid-2007, Baker was invited to join the board of trustees of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Because of Baker's role in the insurance business, the appointment caused controversy, but he and the hospital's CEO, Paul F. Levy, denied any conflict of interest. Baker also serves on the board of directors of the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center, which, according to its website, is a "national nonprofit leading the movement to bring compassion to every patient-caregiver interaction."

Return to politics

Baker ran for the board of selectmen of Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 2004, and won by a "landslide". While on the board, he was noted for a businessman-like approach to local issues; his fellow selectmen described him as "low key" and budget-oriented. After serving three years, he chose not to run for re-election in 2007.

In mid-2005, there were indications that Governor Mitt Romney would not seek re-election in the 2006 Massachusetts gubernatorial election. Baker was widely considered a top contender to take Romney's place as the Republican candidate. Analysts wrote that Baker was unlikely to defeat Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who had already announced her candidacy. Healey was the 2–1 favorite among Republican voters in a Boston Globe poll and had much stronger financial backing. Furthermore, ethics guidelines at Harvard Pilgrim prevented Baker from carrying out any political fundraising while he held an executive position. After "giving serious consideration" to the idea, he announced in August 2005 that he would not run, citing the burden it would be on his family and the difficulty of campaigning against Healey.

In late 2006, Baker was named to a Budget and Finance working group for incoming Governor Deval Patrick's transition committee. In 2008, he joined the Public Advisory Board of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) at Saint Anselm College.

2010 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign

Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker at the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk Law School on February 4, 2014.

In 2009 Baker was again rumored to be a contender for the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. Former governor Weld strongly encouraged him to run, calling him "the heart and soul of the Weld–Cellucci administration". On July 8, 2009, Baker announced his candidacy, and on July 17 he stepped down from his position at Harvard Pilgrim. His campaign formally began on January 30, 2010. His opponents were Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick, Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein and an Independent, State Treasurer and Receiver General Tim Cahill. For his running mate, Baker chose Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei. At the state Republican Convention on April 17, 2010, Baker beat former Independent candidate Christy Mihos for the Republican nomination, winning with 89% of the delegate vote, thus avoiding a primary fight with Mihos.

Baker ran as a social liberal (in favor of gay marriage and abortion rights) but a fiscal conservative, stressing job creation as his primary focus. His campaign centered on "Baker's Dozen", a plan outlining 13 areas of state government reform. Baker's campaign said that his plan, which included consolidation of government, welfare reform, and restructuring of public employee pension and retirement benefits, would lower state expenditures by over $1 billion. Baker, a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, advocated increasing the number of charter, magnet, and alternative schools. Believing that education is a "civil right", he also aimed to close the educational achievement gap among underprivileged and minority students. At a town hall meeting in Chilmark, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Baker voiced his opposition to the proposed Cape Wind project supported by Governor Deval Patrick.

Baker ran against Patrick in an atmosphere of voter discontent, with a slow economy and high unemployment, which he used to his advantage during the campaign. Patrick, facing low approval ratings, criticized Baker for his role in the Big Dig financing plan, and for raising health premiums while head of Harvard Pilgrim. Despite an anti-incumbent mood among voters, Baker was defeated in the November 2 general election with 42 percent of the vote. Patrick was re-elected with 48 percent of the vote. "We fought the good fight," said Baker in his concession speech. "We have no cause to hang our heads and will be stronger for having fought this one."

After the 2010 election, Baker was named an executive in residence at General Catalyst Partners and a member of the board of directors at the Tremont Credit Union.

2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign

On September 4, 2013, Baker announced that he would run again for Governor of Massachusetts in 2014 when incumbent Governor Deval Patrick, to whom he lost in 2010, retired. On November 25, 2013, Mark Fisher, a businessman and Tea Party member announced that he would run against Baker in the Republican primary.

At the Republican State Convention on March 22, 2014, Baker received 2,095 votes (82.708%), Fisher received 374 votes (14.765%) and there were 64 blank votes (2.527%). The threshold for making the ballot is 15% and the party announced that Baker had thus received the nomination without the need for a primary election. However, Fisher argued that according to the Convention Rules, blank votes are not counted for the purposes of determining the winner and that he thus received 15.148%, enough to make the ballot. He sued the Massachusetts Republican State Committee and was certified for the primary ballot after a lengthy battle. In the primary election held on September 9, Baker defeated Fisher with 74% of the vote.

In July 2014, Baker was criticized by Democrats for refusing to say whether he supported a provision in the new gun control law that gave police chiefs discretion to deny firearms identification cards, which are required to purchase shotguns and rifles. He later stated in a debate that he would have signed the gun control bill as it was signed by Governor Patrick.

On October 27, 2014, The Boston Globe announced that it was endorsing Baker marking the first time in twenty years that newspaper has supported a Republican candidate for governor. "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," the endorsement reads. The newspaper also supported Baker because it claimed Baker would be the better candidate to "consolidate" outgoing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's legacy on reforms tied to education, health care and public transportation.

On October 29, 2014, controversy arose over a story that Baker told the previous night about a fisherman and his two sons in New Bedford. In the following days, The Boston Globe and The Standard-Times were unable to find the fisherman. This story, which Baker claims to have occurred in 2009, has been attributed by a professor from Northeastern University as a potential false memory. Coakley seized on this moment to launch an attack on Baker, and visited New Bedford to meet with fishing industry leaders.

In the early morning of November 5, 2014, preliminary results showed that Charlie Baker won the gubernatorial election. Later in the morning of November 5, Democratic opponent Martha Coakley conceded the race to Baker. The final election tally showed Baker with 48.5% of the vote against Coakley's 46.5%.

Governor of Massachusetts

Baker was inaugurated on January 8, 2015 as the 72nd Governor of Massachusetts at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

Approval ratings

Following his first 100 days in office in April 2015, Baker had an approval rating over 70 percent, according to a poll conducted by Suffolk University. In June and July 2015, the MassINC Polling Group conducted polls for WBUR, the Boston NPR affiliate, showing that Baker's favorability ratings were at 69 and 64 percent respectively. In November 2015, a poll conducted by Morning Consult, a media and market research company based in Washington, D.C., showed that Baker had an approval rating of 74 percent and the highest approval rating of any governor in the United States. Also in November 2015, a poll conducted by Suffolk University showed that Baker had a favorability rating of 70 percent. In a second survey conducted by Morning Consult from January to May 2016, Baker had an approval rating of 72 percent and still the highest approval rating of any governor in the United States. Also in May 2016, Suffolk University and The Boston Globe conducted a joint poll showing Baker had a 71 percent approval rating and a 66 percent favorability rating. In July 2016, the market research firm Gravis Marketing conducting a poll on ballot questions and state politics for Jobs First, a conservative political action committee, found Baker having a two-thirds favorability rating. In September 2016, the MassINC Polling Group conducted a poll for WBUR that found Baker's favorability rating was at 62 percent, and WBZ-TV and the University of Massachusetts Amherst jointly conducted a poll showing that Baker had an approval rating and a favorability rating both of 63 percent. In a third survey conducted by Morning Consult from May to September 2016, Baker had an approval rating of 70 percent and the third-highest approval rating of any governor in the United States. In October 2016, the MassINC Polling Group conducted a poll for WBUR finding Baker's favorability rating was at 55 percent, while Suffolk University and The Boston Globe jointly conducted a poll showing Baker had a favorability rating of 64 percent.

Environmental regulatory review

On March 31, 2015, Baker ordered a review of the state's environmental regulations, specifying that they not exceed federal requirements if they "unduly and adversely affect Massachusetts citizens and customers of the Commonwealth."

Fiscal policy

During Baker's first two years as governor, the state income tax has dropped to 5.1%. Baker has opposed implementing a "millionaire's tax," vetoed a vehicle miles traveled tax, originally supported but then opposed extending the state hotel tax to short-term rentals (such as Airbnb), favored a ballot measure that repealed indexing the state gas tax to inflation, signed into law an expansion of the state earned income tax credit, opposed the 2016 ballot initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana with a 3.75% excise tax levied on sales of marijuana products, and signed into law a six-month delay in the issuance of licenses for retailing marijuana in shops. In 2016, the Massachusetts general fund budget rose by 6.1 percent and the state budget for the 2016 fiscal year had a year-end shortfall of more than $300 million and could be as large $750 million for the following year. In December 2016, Baker unilaterally cut $98 million from the state budget, including many of the $265 million in items that he had vetoed the previous July, $231 million of which the state legislature overrode. The cuts prompted criticism and opposition from State House of Representatives Speaker Robert DeLeo, State Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and State Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Karen Spilka.

Personal life

Baker married Lauren Cardy Schadt, another Kellogg alum, in 1987. Lauren was an assistant account executive at a New York advertising agency, and is the daughter of James P. Schadt, the former CEO of Reader's Digest and Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages. Charlie and Lauren live in Swampscott, Massachusetts. They have three children.

Baker is known to chime in on popular culture issues from time-to-time: in 2015, Boston Magazine wrote a piece on the Governor's music preferences, stating that Baker "is shamelessly Top 40 in his tastes, stuck mostly in the classic rock that dominated radio of his teens and twenties, aka the 1970s and ’80s" but holding "a deep knowledge and appreciation for the Ramones, Green Day, and the Dropkick Murphys." That same year, the Governor, a life-long Star Wars fan, admitted to not being a fan of the prequels nor the sequels that follow the original trilogy.

Electoral history

Massachusetts Gubernatorial Republican Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Charlie Baker 215,008 98.3
Republican All others 2,179 1.0
Republican Scott Lively (write-in) 1,021 0.5
Republican Tim Cahill (write-in) 448 0.2
Massachusetts Gubernatorial Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Deval Patrick/Tim Murray (inc.) 1,112,283 48.4
Republican Charlie Baker/Richard Tisei 964,866 42.0
Independent Tim Cahill/Paul Loscocco 184,395 8.0
Green-Rainbow Jill Stein/Richard Purcell 32,895 1.4
Write-ins All others 2,601 0.1
Massachusetts Gubernatorial Republican Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Charlie Baker 116,004 74.1
Republican Mark Fisher 40,240 25.7
Republican All others 336 0.2
Massachusetts Gubernatorial Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Charlie Baker/Karyn Polito 1,044,573 48.4
Democratic Martha Coakley/Steve Kerrigan 1,004,408 46.5
United Independent Evan Falchuk/Angus Jennings 71,814 3.3
Independent Scott Lively/Shelly Saunders 19,378 0.9
Independent Jeff McCormick/Tracy Post 16,295 0.8
Write-ins All others 1,858 0.1

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