Republican Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker announced today that state Sen. Richard R Tisei will run alongside him for Lieutenant Governor in next year’s election.
Tisei, the Senate minority leader, has served in the state legislature since being elected to the House of Representatives in 1984. That electoral victory made Tisei, then only 22 years-old, the youngest Republican ever elected to the state House.
Despite the announcement, the two men are not officially a ticket; by Massachusetts Law, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are elected independently, though they are allowed to campaign together in the gubernatorial primary.
In adding Tisei, Baker bolsters his campaign’s otherwise thin legislative credentials. Though he served in the administrations of Massachusetts Gov. William Weld during the 1990s, rising to such posts as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Secretary of Administration and Finance, a short stint as a Swampscott selectman represents his only governing experience.
The announcement has also drawn comparisons to Weld’s 1990 gubernatorial campaign, in which he nominated a more politically seasoned running mate, Paul Celluci, whose 14 years in the Massachusetts legislature anchored Weld’s mostly private sector resume.
Baker is vying with Christy Mihos, former head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, for the Republican nomination in next September’s primary contest.
If elected, Tisei would be the first openly gay lieutenant governor in state history—Tisei acknowledged his homosexuality in an interview last week with the Boston Globe, though the news was already widely known. For a comparatively liberal state like Massachusetts, one of only five states to legalize same-sex marriage, the revelation is not expected to have much of an impact on the race.
“It’s not exactly news,” Tisei was quoted as saying in the Globe interview.
With a year to go before the general election, Baker is in good position to mount a strong challenge to Gov. Deval Patrick’s reelection campaign. Patrick, whose landslide victory in 2006 ended 16 years of Republican governorship, has seen his popularity plummet in recent months, due in large part to the state’s enormous budget crisis and a subsequent sharp tax increase. In a July poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, just 36 percent of respondents said they viewed the governor favorably, while 52 percent viewed him unfavorably.
The poll also found Patrick losing in a hypothetical race with Baker 41 percent to 35 percent, without State Treasurer Timothy Cahill in the mix.
Patrick is also running against the momentum of a resurgent Republican party that, fueled by voters’ discontent with the lingering recession, just reclaimed governorships in New Jersey and Virginia earlier this month.