Republican Charlie Baker will get another shot at winning the Massachusetts governor's office in November after cruising to a decisive win in his party's primary for governor Tuesday, easily defeating fellow GOP candidate Mark Fisher.
The victory by the former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care executive over the tea party-affiliated business owner wasn't unexpected. Baker had led Fisher in polls throughout the campaign.
Baker, who lost to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick four years ago, will face off against the winner of the three-way Democratic primary pitting Attorney General Martha Coakley against state Treasurer Steve Grossman and former federal health care administrator Don Berwick.
Baker told supporters that he had and his running mate, Karyn Polito, would end what he called one-party government in Massachusetts by bringing independent leadership and fiscal discipline to the Statehouse.
"Our opponents are stuck in the past," said Baker. "They're proposing more spending, no reforms, higher taxes, and the continuation of the status quo.
For the 57-year-old Baker, the primary helped him reinforce his image as a fiscally cautious but socially moderate leader and gave him a chance to roll out a less buttoned-down image than during his 2010 contest.
The primary also allowed Baker, who supports gay marriage and abortion rights, to pick and choose those issues where he differs most sharply with Democrats.
Turnout appeared sluggish around the state.
Massachusetts Secretary William Galvin, the state's top elections official, forecast turnout of 15 to 20 percent of registered voters. In Boston, city elections officials reported that only about 12 percent of eligible voters had turned out as of 6 p.m.
At a polling place in Somerville, a number of voters said no particular issue had brought them out for this election.
"I always vote," said Paul Guglietta, who cast his ballot in the Republican primary for Baker.
"If you don't vote, you can't complain," said Dave Delano, after he and his wife, Denise, cast Democratic ballots for Grossman.
Baker criticized the state's botched rollout of a new health care website and faulted as too complicated and too difficult to enforce an agreement Coakley reached with Partners HealthCare, allowing it to acquire Hallmark Health Systems, which operates two hospitals north of Boston.
There were other areas where Baker found himself in agreement with Beacon Hill Democrats.
He praised a gun safety bill approved by lawmakers and signed by Patrick this year and when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a state law creating 35-foot protest-free buffer zones around abortion clinics, Baker not only said he disagreed with the ruling but backed a new bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Patrick giving police increased authority around abortion clinic entrances.
Whichever Democrat wins the party's nomination for governor will have to quickly replenish his or her campaign coffers.
At the end of August, Baker reported nearly $1.2 million left in his campaign account, compared with $241,000 for Grossman, $220,000 for Berwick and $197,000 for Coakley.
Baker also benefits from the fundraising prowess of his hand-picked choice for lieutenant governor, Polito, who is running unopposed in the GOP primary.
At the end of August, Polito had $594,000 left in her account compared with the three Democratic lieutenant governor candidates: Mike Lake had $72,000, Stephen Kerrigan had $22,000 and Leland Cheung had $15,000.
There's also a super PAC backed by the Republican Governors Association that has already spent $1.4 million on ads to support Baker.
Another super PAC supported by the Democratic Governors Association and local unions has bought more than $3 million in television time to support the Democratic primary winner.