Massachusetts Governor-elect Charlie Baker's post election tour took him to Lowell Wednesday, where he met with city leaders to discuss issues including a new courthouse and future plans for UMass Lowell.
Afterward, Baker and Lt. Governor-elect Karyn Polito took questions flanked by UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan and State Rep David Nangle, both Democrats. This comes one day after Baker announced his first cabinet pick: Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash, also a Democrat.
"From my point of view, I didn't really care if he was Democrat or a Republican ... Jay Ash has demonstrated over and over and over again over the course of his time as city manager of Chelsea," Baker said.
Watching all this unfold are members of the Republican State Committee, an historically fractured group in Masschusetts where the more conservative members feel their leaders, typically moderates, should act more like Republicans and not Democrats.
The issue has flared in recent days as Baker announced he would back the current party chair, Kirsten Hughes, who is a moderate, even as a group of more conservative Committee members are either running against her or strongly considering. They include Steve Aylward, who ran the successful gas tax ballot initiative; Chanel Prunier, a social conservative; and Rick Green, a businessman who lost to Hughes two years ago by one vote.
"I think Kirsten deserves a lot of credit for the success we had as a party and bringing more balance to Beacon Hill," Baker said.
Baker is referring to Republicans picking up eight legislative seats and winning the governor's office as well as a significantly beefed up get out the vote effort.
When asked if she was disappointed that Baker had already backed Hughes, and if she still plans to run, Chanel Prunier responded, "I have good working relationships with many individuals on both sides of the divide in the state committee, and a good relationship with our governor-elect. I'm certainly considering it."
Steve Aylward is also upbeat about Baker saying he did not know others were running when he got behind Hughes. He said he is "strongly leaning" toward a run.