Democrats in liberal Massachusetts who were hoping to follow in the footsteps of New Jersey and Virginia in winning the governors’ races may not be so likely to unseat GOP Gov. Charlie Baker — whose progressive policies are appealing to many Democrat voters.
Baker recently earned high praise from the abortion and birth control lobby before Thanksgiving when he signed a bill into law that mandates most employers and insurers — regardless of their religious or moral convictions — provide free contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures to all workers.
The new Massachusetts law pushes back on the Trump administration’s rollback in October of Obamacare’s controversial contraceptive mandate. The legislation Baker signed, however, went even further than the Obama administration directive. The Massachusetts law will also require insurers to pay for an entire year’s supply of birth control pills, while currently they often cover one to a three months’ supply at a time.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPAdvocacyMA) November 20, 2017
The Associated Press (AP) reports on the scene of Republican Baker’s ceremonial signing of the free birth control measure while flanked by Planned Parenthood officials and other Democrats extolling his virtues:
Speaker after speaker, including the head of Planned Parenthood in Massachusetts, thanked and praised Baker for backing the legislation and reproductive rights for women in general. Baker did not flinch, and at times applauded briskly, when speakers castigated Republicans in Washington who have targeted birth control coverage and funding for Planned Parenthood.
The scene Monday was yet another example of Baker’s uncomfortable relationship with the national GOP establishment. But it was also a reminder of the difficulty Democrats likely face in dislodging the governor from office in the 2018 election, regardless of how unpopular the Republican brand may be in Massachusetts.
“He’s not a hardcore partisan,” said Peter Ubertaccio, associate professor of political science at Stonehill College, according to AP. “It’s going to be a real challenge for the Democratic nominee. There will be a number of Democrats who will stay neutral or give their nominee only tepid support.”
Baker, who has some $7 million in his campaign war chest, formally declared his re-election bid Tuesday. He has said he did not vote for Trump or anyone else on the presidential ballot.
The governor lost his initial campaign for the state’s top post in 2010 to incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick (D). He went on to win the GOP nomination again in 2014 and barely defeated then-Attorney General Martha Coakley (D).
The governor has rejected the White House’s stance on immigration, gun control, and special rights for transgender individuals. Baker has also taken pride in Massachusetts’s apparent goal of achieving universal health care — one that was launched when 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney was governor of the Bay State.
We are proud to join our legislative colleagues to protect women’s health care & access to family planning services. MA leads the nation with near universal health care coverage, & signing this bipartisan bill into law ensures critical access to important contraceptive coverage. pic.twitter.com/tz24EGF6bV
— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) November 20, 2017
Baker’s announcement of the new free birth control law on Twitter stated:
We are proud to join our legislative colleagues to protect women’s health care and access to family planning services. MA leads the nation with near universal health care coverage, and signing this bipartisan bill into law ensures critical access to important contraceptive coverage.
Baker is finding, however, that if he mostly acts and speaks like a Democrat, Democrats will charge him as a hypocrite when he does or says anything more in line with Republicans.
Democratic party leaders have recently accused Baker of hypocrisy for endorsing down-ticket Republican candidates with more conservative views on social issues. State party chairman Gus Bickford pointed to Baker’s backing of Fitchburg City Councilor Dean Tran, the GOP nominee in a Dec. 5 special state Senate election.
Tran is on record as opposing any state funding for Planned Parenthood and against some transgender rights laws.
“The governor can’t have it both ways,” said Bickford.
Baker reportedly responded to the criticism without apologies.
“I’ve supported candidates that I don’t agree with on a lot of issues,” said Baker. “I don’t expect to agree with everyone on everything all the time. I believe it’s OK to disagree.”