Charlie Baker was sworn in as Massachusetts’ 72nd governor on Thursday. He will replace Gov. Deval Patrick, who chose not to seek a third term in office. We asked Distinguished Professor of Political Science Michael Dukakis to discuss Baker’s forthcoming governorship. He responded by employing his expertise as Massachusetts’ longest-serving governor, a position he held for 12 years.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, Baker noted that his gubernatorial tasks will range from closing the state’s estimated $328 million budget gap to assuming oversight of its voter-approved medical marijuana program. In your view, what will be Baker’s biggest challenges during his first year in office?
Baker’s biggest challenge, in my opinion, is keeping Massachusetts moving on the path that Gov. Patrick and the Legislature have turned over to him and investing in the kinds of things that will make this state better. Our economy is one of the most successful in the country, and our schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education, are the best in the country. But our transportation infrastructure needs work, and we still have too many older urban communities that aren’t where they ought to be. That will take serious investment in a rail-based transportation system that connects Boston with southeastern and western Massachusetts; eliminates the gap between North Station and South Station, which could fully integrate our commuter rail system; and works with our neighboring states in the Northeast to get us truly high-speed rail service to New York and Washington.
Baker served in the administrations of former Massachusetts Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci. How do you think his previous experience will influence his political strategy in his new role?
Since I wasn’t a fan of the administrations in which he worked, I hope his will be a much more progressive administration than either of the two in which he served. So far, I think the signs are good, especially with respect to some of his key cabinet appointees. I hope that trend continues.
More than 170 people will serve on Baker’s transition committees on schools, jobs, community, health, and government. As Massachusetts’ longest-serving governor, what advice do you have for him?
For one, I would advise him to put a first-rate cabinet together as quickly as possible. I would also suggest he begins to build good relationships with the Legislature. Finally, he should reach out to the community of people across this state that want us to be the best we can be and engage them actively.