Baker Cites SouthCoast Visit As Reason He Won’t Meet with Pence Tuesday
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker will skip a big-money GOP fundraiser in Boston on Tuesday where Vice President Mike Pence will be the featured guest at an event expected to raise $500,000 for President Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Pence plans to fly into Boston just weeks after the vice president traveled to New Hampshire for a forum on federal tax reform and a fundraiser for first-term Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
While Baker's popularity in an otherwise blue state has been a point of pride for national Republican groups, Baker does not plan to see the vice president while he's in town, nor does the governor have any plans to seek fundraising help from the White House this year, according to his campaign.
"I think I'm actually going to be in the SouthCoast, down in New Bedford, when he's here," Baker told reporters Monday afternoon.
Like Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said that she too would be otherwise occupied while Pence was in town on Tuesday. Asked why she planned to skip the event, Polito said, "Wasn't asked to attend and I have other commitments tomorrow."
Asked if his absence was meant to send a message after Baker famously refused to vote for the Trump-Pence ticket in November, the governor said, "I'm not sending a message. I'm just not going to be here because my calendar has other stuff on it, which is important."
Baker will be the featured guest Tuesday evening in Westport at an event hosted by the SouthCoast and Bristol County chambers of commerce and billed as "A Dinner with Gov. Charlie Baker" from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at White's of Westport, according to the SouthCoast Chamber's website.
The event on Tuesday is being hosted by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, GOP National Finance Chairman Todd Ricketts and Massachusetts Finance Chair Chris Vincze, according to a copy of the invitation.
Tickets range from $15,000 for a couple for a photo opportunity with the vice president to $35,000 for the chance to take part in a roundtable discussion. The money raised will benefit the Trump Victory Committee, a joint-fundraising venture between Trump for President and the Republican National Committee.
Baker hesitated when asked if he would have attended the event had his schedule permitted, and said he wasn't sure if he had been invited.
"My calendar was full. I didn't know about it. Generally speaking, when important federal officials come through town if we have a chance to say hello to them we try to, whether they're Republican or Democrats," he said.
President Donald Trump remains deeply unpopular in Massachusetts, with his approval rating even lower now than when he took office. A recent Morning Consult poll found that only 33 percent of voters in Massachusetts approved of the president in March, down from 43 percent in January 2017. Sixty-four percent of Bay State voters surveyed in March disapproved of Trump.
Baker is running for re-election this year, and since he decided to blank his ballot in 2016 rather than vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton the governor has kept the Trump administration at arms length, and sometimes been vocally critical of the president's policies.
The vice president is due to touch down in Boston in Air Force Two at 4:15 p.m., and his arrival is open for the press to cover, but the RNC event, according to Pence's office, is closed press and no details on the time or location for the fundraiser were provided.
The invitation said details would be provided to attendees upon RSVP, and a spokeswoman for the RNC told the News Service she was not aware of the exact location. The Boston Globe reported Monday afternoon that the fundraiser will take place downtown at the Langham Hotel in Boston at 5:30 p.m.
Baker may be steering clear of the Pence's visit to Boston, but the governor has participated in a significant fundraising partnership between the Massachusetts Republican Party and the RNC.
The Massachusetts Victory Committee, a joint fundraising venture set up in 2013 between the RNC and the MassGOP, had raised $4.79 million since 2015 as of December, and took in $1.65 million in 2017 alone. The partnership allows Baker and the state party to tap wealthy donors for maximum contributions of $43,400, far exceeding the state's $1,000 donation limit for candidates and $5,000 for party contributions.
Baker advisors say that the state party has accrued a net benefit from the fundraising partnership with the RNC, which in off election years in Massachusetts has generated some income for the RNC to support candidates around the country.
The governor also counted heavily in his 2015 campaign on national support through the Republican Governors Association, which is likely to once again invest in Baker's re-election campaign this fall.
--Matt Murphy, State House News Service