The self-styled “little guy” got some help Wednesday from one of the Democratic Party’s biggest guns as he attempts to harness excitement on the left in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
In front of a large “ELIZABETH” wall mural and behind a much smaller sign for his own campaign, Democratic nominee for governor Jay Gonzalez thanked U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and much of the state’s Congressional delegation for their support as the party launched a coordinated campaign it hopes will carry Gonzalez to victory along with Warren and others.
“Republicans have been in charge, but tick tock. Change is coming,” Warren said at the Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign headquarters in Dorchester, adding that there are 55 days until the election.
Democrats hope energy from the left will boost Gonzalez’s campaign against Baker, who continues to project a bipartisan bent while encountering anti-Trump headwinds that are dividing Republicans.
Baker and running mate Karyn Polito hold a sizable financial advantage over the Democratic ticket and the Republican Governors Association has already spent close to $3 million on ads promoting the governor. The Republican has $6.3 million in the bank at the end of August, compared to $366,000 for Gonzalez. Polito has another $3.8 million on hand that the ticket could tap, while Gonzalez running mate Quentin Palfrey ended August with $27,400 in the bank.
Gonzalez and Palfrey sat down Wednesday with Warren and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, U.S. Reps. Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Katherine Clark and Joseph Kennedy III, presumptive congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and party chairman Gus Bickford before meeting with the media and campaign volunteers.
Bickford said the party has more field organizers working for the coordinated campaign designed to help Democrats running for state and federal office than any previous year. Campaign staff from the Warren, Neal and Gonzalez teams have transitioned to work for the coordinated campaign, Bickford said.
“We have never seen this before and I believe that this stems from the day after the inauguration, the women’s march, to us understanding that we have to be on the ground and out there talking to voters,” Bickford said. “We know that by turning people out and speaking to voters the numbers are in our favor … There is a weakening in the Republican base, we just need to turn out.”
On the Republican side, the state GOP said that it has 34 active field offices around Massachusetts and a roughly equal number of field staffers dedicated to helping get Republican candidates elected in November.
Most Massachusetts voters are independents, having opted against registering as either a Democrat or Republican.
Bickford said the Democrats’ coordinated campaign is operating with $1.7 million — including more than $1 million from Warren — and is expected to grow its coffers with contributions from the rest of the Congressional delegation.
“A Shift Occurring”
Pressley, whose Congressional primary win against 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano last week was the top political story for days and overshadowed the official launch of the Gonzalez/Palfrey gubernatorial ticket, alluded Wednesday to the momentum she felt on the campaign trail for new Democratic leadership.
“There is a shift occurring,” she said. “We can feel the ground shifting beneath our feet and we need to harness that. We united the electorate, we expanded the electorate and I’m very pleased that we will continue to make those investments.”
Asked how Democrats can help Gonzalez overcome frequent polling that shows Baker is popular among voters even in some of the most liberal-leaning parts of the state, Pressley said her win should be proof that polling doesn’t always reflect the attitude of voters.
“As was proven in our campaign, you can’t poll or gauge transformation and transformation is happening out there on the ground,” she said.
Wednesday’s event with the Congressional delegation marked the third time since last Wednesday that high-profile Democrats and party leaders have convened to talk up the gubernatorial ticket. There was the usual post-primary unity event last Wednesday and a Sunday rally with Warren and Pressley as headliners.
Ahead of Wednesday morning’s event, the GOP took a whack at Gonzalez for tax increase proposals of Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, for which Gonzalez served for more than three years as budget chief.
“To be sure, if Gonzalez uses his Patrick-era tax hikes as a blueprint, they won’t cover all of his $60 billion in proposed new spending – not even close,” MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes said in a statement. “And that’s what should worry voters the most.”
Gonzalez said Wednesday that the GOP’s claim that he wants to spend $60 billion is “absolutely ridiculous” but said the state needs to spend more to fix its public transportation and education systems.
“We do need more money. I’m going to be proposing ways to ask those who are doing well in this state to pay more so that we can make some of these critical investments that will lift everybody up,” he said.
Asked for one specific way in which he would seek to fund his priorities, Gonzalez said, “I’ll be rolling out some more specifics over the course of the campaign. But we have to ask those who are doing well to pay more.”
Gonzalez and other Democrats backed a constitutional amendment this year calling for an income surtax on the wealthy, but the Supreme Judicial Court tossed the measure off the ballot, citing its improper inclusion of multiple topics. Democrats are hoping to redraft a proposal, with eyes on the 2022 ballot.
Warren took to the role of Gonzalez surrogate with some zeal Wednesday, jumping between Gonzalez and Palfrey during a media scrum with her arms around both men. Zeroing in on a message that could help Gonzalez and her own re-election effort, Warren hammered Baker for his endorsement of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Geoff Diehl, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump.
“He’s saying he wants to send people to Washington who will help advance the agenda of Donald Trump. That’s exactly what’s happening here. No one is trying to hide the ball here,” she said.
Gonzalez, too, tied Baker to Trump — for whom the governor did not vote in 2016 — via Diehl.
“Let me be clear about something: by working to help Geoff Diehl replace this incredible United States senator, Charlie Baker is supporting Donald Trump’s efforts to take this country backwards,” Gonzalez said, gesturing at Warren. “He is backing an anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, pro-NRA agenda. It’s not OK.”
Baker’s campaign responded Wednesday by highlighting legislation Baker has signed into law and by pointing out that the governor has been given a grade of “F” from the local Gun Owners Action League and a “D” grade from the NRA.
“Governor Baker has been proud to enact nation-leading bipartisan legislation curbing the opioid epidemic and climate change, allowing for extreme risk protection orders to remove firearms from dangerous individuals, extending additional protections to the Commonwealth’s transgender community and protecting women’s access to healthcare and family planning services,” Baker campaign spokesman Terry MacCormack said. “We continue to hope our opponent will finally decide to fill in the details on his promise to raise taxes to pay for his $60 billion in new spending proposals.”