Attention Chelsea voters, Charlie Baker is running for governor and you will hear about him big time, because he is the real thing.
At first, Baker, 2010 Republican candidate for Massachusetts Governor, comes off as a sort of uptight Harvard educated geek who smiles and gives a forced laugh but doesn’t get the joke the cool kid just told him.
However, once he loosens up a bit, lets his guard down a little and relaxes there’s a side to Charlie Baker I’d like to see more out on the campaign trail.
The 52-year-old former head of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and secretary of Administration and Finance under both Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci was in the area last week.
There, among a few supporters and some political activists interested in his candidacy, Baker impressed those at the luncheon as a level headed fiscal conservative but, like his mentors Weld and Cellucci, a social liberal.
Baker is pro choice, pro gay marriage, favors health care reform but admits the state is in a downward fiscal spiral and job creation would be his primary focus on re-stimulating the state’s stagnant economy.
And like his former bosses William Weld and Paul Cellucci, Baker is getting some support from Democrats. They see his past experience in government (he was actually invited to be Cellucci’s running mate in 1998 but declined and was called the ‘heart and soul’ of the Weld-Cellucci administration by the two former governors) and as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim as attractive qualities as current Democratic Governor Deval Patrick’s popularity among the public and the legislature wanes.
When Baker took over at Harvard Pilgrim, the company was suffering financially, losing $58 million in 1998 with predictions to lose over $90 million in 1999, and Baker immediately initiated a “dramatic restructuring” in the company’s business method. Baker’s turnaround plan included cutting the workforce by 90 people, increasing premiums, establishing new contracts with Massachusetts physicians, outsourcing the company’s information technology and reassessing the company’s financial structure through PricewaterhouseCoopers. During Baker’s tenure as CEO, the company reversed its downward spiral, seeing “two dozen consecutive profitable quarters” and being voted “America’s Best Health Plan” by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for five straight years.
There’s even some opinion polling Baker said he’s seen that would suggest the state would have no problem putting a former CEO or businessman (with a similar business background as Mitt Romney) in the corner office to help guide the state back to some degree of fiscal responsibility and recovery.
In the fundraising department, Baker has been able to raise nearly a $500,000 since announcing his intention to run for the seat back in July. A recent event netted the candidate almost $50,000 in one night.
“It’s been going very well so far,” said Baker.