By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — Governor-elect Charlie Baker, who described himself as “anxious” to move from the campaign to the business of governing, said his first order of business after claiming a narrow victory in Tuesday’s election for governor would be to start hiring a team around him.
“People are policy,” said Baker, speaking with his running mate Karyn Polito at the Seaport Hotel just hours after Democrat Martha Coakley called to concede the close race.
Baker declined to discuss legislative initiatives that could emerge out of the gate in January, but indicated he would follow through on a campaign promise “early on” to release $100 million in funding for local road repairs held back by the Patrick administration.
The move to release the local road funding, which Patrick held back in order to dedicate state borrowing to other infrastructure projects, could help endear him to lawmakers, including Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, who were frustrated with Patrick for refusing to spend one-third of the $300 million in authorized local road spending.
Baker met for over 40 minutes privately with Patrick at the State House to discuss the transition and issues that will face the new administration in January. The two men, who appeared to put aside any lingering animosity from the campaign trail, discussed the first budget Baker will have to assemble, as well as the rebuilt Health Connector website that goes live on Nov. 15.
“The campaign’s over. We’re looking ahead. We’re both looking ahead,” said Patrick, who hours earlier had stood with Coakley as she addressed her supporters after conceding the race.
Asked what advice he gave Baker, Patrick said, “Have fun. Find the parts of the job…It’s a big job. There’s a lot to it and a lot of variety and never a dull day, but find the parts of the job that are fun and make sure you keep going back to those.”
The Patrick administration has put together a website of transition materials for the Baker team and appointed a point person to facilitate meetings for the governor-elect in the coming months. Office space has also been set aside on the first floor of the State House for Baker’s transition team, but a Baker aide said the governor-elect and his staff would continue to work for now out of his Brighton campaign headquarters.
Some of Baker’s campaign staff will ultimately make the transition to the administration with the governor-elect. Though campaign manager Jim Conroy is not expected to take a role in the new administration, spokesman Tim Buckley will stay on as communications director to the new governor, according to advisors.
Baker said he has tapped education reform and charter school advocate Jim Peyser to lead his transition team. Peyser, who is managing director of New Schools City Funds in Boston, previously worked as chair of the Board of Education and as an education advisor to Republican governors, including as special advisor on charter schools to Gov. William Weld.
“Mostly what I want to say is thank you very much to the voters of Massachusetts for giving Karyn and me the opportunity to serve as governor and lieutenant governor. Certainly for me, it’s the honor of a lifetime,” Baker said.
The Bakers and Politos had breakfast at the Seaport Hotel Wednesday morning with their families before facing the media. Baker made a stop later in the afternoon at The BASE in Roxbury and planned drop by the Eire Pub in Dorchester later in the evening.
Baker, who will have to work with a Legislature that remains heavily Democratic despite small gains in the House and Senate on Tuesday for the GOP, said he hopes to continue the tradition of meeting regularly with legislative leadership of both parties.
“I congratulate Charlie Baker on his victory. I worked with him when he served as Secretary of Administration & Finance and look forward to working with him in his new role as governor,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg, who is expected to be elected president of the Senate in January, also noted his past work with Baker while the governor-elect served in Gov. William Weld’s cabinet and Rosenberg chaired the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“I am confident we will work together well because we have done so in the past…,” Rosenberg said. “I strongly believe that together we will continue this commitment to reaching across the aisle, and finding common ground upon which to build consensus and ensure a responsive and accountable government.”
One issue where Baker and Democratic leaders on Beacon Hill may find common ground is over campaign finance reform. A flood of money from outside groups, including the Republican Governors Association, contributed to the electoral atmosphere in Massachusetts as the airwaves were crowded with political ads.
“I certainly think there are things we can do to limit the role and the influence of outside spending and that’s a great example of something I would like to work with the Legislature on a bipartisan basis to pursue,” Baker said.
Baker, however, would not go so far as to say that super PAC and RGA spending on his race helped propel him to the slim margin over Coakley, who did not receive the same level of support from the Democratic Governors Association.
“I think our message is fundamentally responsible for our victory,” said Baker, suggesting voters responded to his message of improving the economy and schools and bringing balance to Beacon Hill.
Voters on Tuesday also supported a ballot question opposed by Baker that will guarantee earned paid sick time to workers at companies with at least 11 employees. Though Baker presented an alternative proposal during the campaign to restrict the measure to mid-size companies with at least 50 employees, he said he would not pursue changes to the ballot law.
“I think we should implement the law,” Baker said.