Briefings: And Heeeeere’s Charlie (Backing a Springfield Council Candidate)…
Former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and former Lt. Governor Karyn Polito have recommended a candidate in Springfield’s upcoming election. Four years ago, Baker and Polito’s orbits had telegraphed a preference for mayor. Not so much in 2023. Rather, the commonwealth’s onetime executive duo endorsed their former Western Mass aide and now-Council candidate, Jose Delgado.
Baker and Polito, both Republicans, had endorsed Democrats, especially in nonpartisan races before. However, unlike another Delgado ex-boss, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, the at-large Council hopeful does not cut a conservative figure. Rather, by all accounts this reflects a sincere Baker quality: loyalty to those who have worked for him.
“Jose is a true public servant and is exactly the kind of person we need in Government. He works hard, gets things done, and doesn’t get distracted by divisive politics.” Baker said in a statement Delgado’s campaign released. “We were lucky to have him serve in our administration, and I’m happy to see him advancing in his public service.”
Baker left office in January and now leads the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Delgado’s decision to run for office was something Springfield’s chattering classes had contemplated since he moved on from Sarno’s office in 2014. With stops at UMass and MGM Springfield, he joined Baker’s staff in 2021. While running the governor’s Western Mass office, he was promoted to a deputy chief of staff. Today, he is the chief engagement officer for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security.
Although Delgado is himself a Democrat, Springfield has a history of electing (non-controversial) Republicans in nonpartisan races. Moreover, Baker won Springfield in 2018 during his reelection and there is no evidence working for Baker has been a drag. He placed fifth in the September 12 preliminary with 21 candidates’ names on the ballot. (Only 20 competed as one withdrew too late to remove his name). That earned him a spot on the November ballot and a solid shot at one of the municipal legislature’s five at-large seats.
Baker had above average popularity in Springfield for a Republican. However, it is unlikely that working for him would give too many people pause anyway. Delgado’s role was not ideological. Even Baker’s critics considered Delgado accessible and responsive.
At least in the context of Springfield, Polito’s comment appears to capture this.
“Working with cities was a top priority for our administration, and Jose was a partner we could count on. He always advocated strongly for Western Mass and I know he’ll be an effective City Councilor for Springfield,” she said in Delgado’s release.
Delgado also thanked the commonwealth’s previous number 1 and 2 for their support.
The Baker-Polito nod for Delgado carries less intrigue as a cross-partisan gesture than whom it skips, if for now. Four years ago, a Baker adjacent outside spending PAC supported Sarno when he faced nominal opposition for reelection. Sarno had endorsed Baker in 2018, a move that booted him from participating in the 2019 state Democratic convention.
The mayor, coming off a meh showing in the preliminary will likely begin rolling out endorsements soon. Perhaps Baker will be among them. Baker’s nod probably will not move that many votes, though. Unlike in 2019, Baker’s SuperPAC now appears to be dormant. Outside spending that blasts Sarno’s opponent, at-large Councilor Justin Hurst, would probably be more useful than a nice Facebook post with Baker.
A Baker spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on his potential involvement in other Springfield races.
For Delgado, however, the support itself could prove more useful. As substantive media coverage of Springfield politics collapses, candidates in all races are struggling to stand out. This is especially true of Council candidates. Whatever one thinks of Baker these days, his recognition and his kind words could elevate Delgado in whatever medium his campaign can appear.