Former gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker ’79 has emerged early as the likely Republican nominee for governor, trailing the Democratic frontrunner, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha M. Coakley, by 13 points, according to a recent poll.
Baker ran for governor once before, in 2010, losing to incumbent Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 by a 6-point margin.
The poll, released by Suffolk University inlate February, showed Baker as the second most supported candidate from any party.
Although he was 13 points behind Coakley, Baker fared well against other Democratic candidates. He beat out Treasurer Steve Grossman by five percent and the rest of the Democratic field by even wider margins. Baker was 18 points ahead of Juliet N. Kayyem ’95 and 19 points ahead of both Joe Avellone and Donald M. Berwick ’68.
Baker emerged as the clear conservative favorite in the Suffolk poll, which found that 73 percent of all registered Republican voters preferred Baker to other Republican candidates.
“Charlie says all the time he’s not running against one person or another,” said Tim Buckley, a spokesperson for Baker. “He’s running for the job of leading Massachusetts.”
Buckley said he felt confident as the campaign heats up and noted that the unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial campaign was an important learning experience for 2014.
Baker also has the advantage of precedent on his side. An Independent governor has never been elected in Massachusetts—a fact that may lower the chances of independent candidates Jeff S. McCormick and Evan Falchuk.
“There are a large number of people who are not declared in the Commonwealth,” said David J. Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. “In theory an Independent candidate could pick off some of them, from either party, and try and get some support going."
However, Harris said he doubts whether an independent could gain enough support to defeat a candidate from one of the major parties in Massachusetts.
“If the right candidate came along perhaps, but there would need to be a very special set of circumstances,” he said.
A panel event on criminal justice Thursday at the Law School, planned by Harris, will feature Kayyem, Grossman, Falchuk, and Republican challenger Mark Fisher. The event will mark the first time candidates from across parties have gathered together on campus this election cycle.
—Staff writer Conor J. Reilley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
—Staff writer Zohra D. Yaqhubi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @zohradyaqhubi.