Baker Misses Pence Visit, Touts Bipartisanship in Westport
WESTPORT — Governor Charlie Baker took part in an event hosted by the SouthCoast and Bristol County chambers of commerce as the featured guest on Tuesday night in Westport.
The event, “A Dinner with Gov. Charlie Baker”, was held at White's of Westport, the same time a highly anticipated Republican National Committee fundraiser featuring Vice President Mike Pence was taking place in Boston.
Governor Baker has received criticism by some for his decision to skip the GOP fundraiser, an event that was expected to raise $500,000 for President Donald Trump's re-election campaign and welcomed Pence as the featured guest. The fundraiser, which started at 5:30 p.m., was held at the Langham Hotel in downtown Boston.
Baker's event in Westport ran from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Baker, who is running for re-election this year, famously refused to vote for the Trump-Pence ticket in November, and denied that his decision to skip the fundraiser was a message to the Trump Administration when pressed by reporters on Monday.
"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 said. “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."
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito also remained absent from the event, citing other commitments and a lack of an invitation as reasons for not attending.
During his speech to area business leaders and local and state political figures, Baker seemed to put an emphasis on promoting the image of having a bipartisan agenda, and did not mention the president or vice president by name.
The governor began his speech with a 15-minute long discussion on the aftermath of the close gubernatorial election in which he ended up defeating then-Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2014.
Baker described how he and Lt. Gov. Polito sought out state politicians who voted against them in the election, and then appointed them to positions in his administration to further prove his self-proclaimed bipartisanship, saying, “We take a lot of pride in the fact that we built a bipartisan cabinet. In fact, the first two people we hired were Democrats.”
“One of the things you learn when you win a close race is that you have a lot of people you need to embrace who may not have supported you. One of the things Karen and I did after the election was we went and visited a lot of the folks who we felt were important who had supported our opponent,” Baker continued. “One of the things that Karen and I talked a lot about was building a bipartisan team and seeking the best answer, and not just ours.”
The governor eventually moved on to political issues concerning the SouthCoast, such as the effect offshore wind energy development will have on commercial fishing and South Coast Rail, but then spent the final ten minutes of his speech with more talk about the importance of bipartisanship.
Baker recalled listening to his Democratic mother and Republican father debate about the politics of the day while growing up, and made contrasts from the style in which his parents debated issues to how politicians do so today.
“It was great fun to listen to my parents because it was a conversation, it wasn't talking points, it wasn't character assassination, neither one was trying to win and argument. They were trying to learn from one another,” Baker said. “One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from my mom was 'you have two ears and two eyes for a reason, and you'll never get any smarter if you only talk to people who agree with you.”