WGBH: Weld Did It. Romney Did it. Now It’s Charlie Baker’s Turn To Work With The Democratic Legislature

By Rupa Shenoy

It isn’t the first time Massachusetts has been in this situation. The last four Republican governors — all since 1960 — had to work with Democratic legislatures, just like governor-elect Charlie Baker will have to next year.

“There’s a lot of history and a lot of track record,” said Marty Linksy, counselor to Republican governor Bill Weld. “And on the whole, it’s actually a quite terrific.”

Linksy was counselor to Republican Gov. William Weld. He says it’s never too soon for a newly elected governor to reach out to legislators.

“You might see some gestures in the next couple of days,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll see any real progress. But my guess is you’ll see some kind of peace offering on both sides to at least get them off on the right foot.”

Linsky says some Republican governors have actually had an easier time working with Democratic legislatures than Democratic governors. He says there’s one key mistake any governor can make.

“Governors that have gotten in trouble with the legislature both on the Democratic side and the Republican side are ones who didn’t respect the pressures the legislators are under,” he said.

Cindy Gillespie, Romney’s chief of legislative affairs, says Republican Governor Mitt Romney avoided that mistake by holding weekly meetings with Republican leaders. She says the meetings were most successful when no one held back.

“Sharing information builds trust,” Gillespie said. “They know what you’re trying to fix, and they’re more likely to give you the running room to do it.”

Gillespie says Romney’s administration avoided conflict by rotating the location of the weekly meetings between the governor’s office, the majority leader’s office, and the Senate leader’s office.

“That way everyone was always hosting periodically and there was no issue of it appearing that someone was summoning the others to their office,” she said.

Weld also held weekly meetings.

“I participated in those when Gov. Weld was here and I look forward to continuing that tradition,” said Democratic Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst, the soon-to-be Senate president. Rosenberg says he’s already exchanged voicemails with Baker. The two know each other from when Baker was Weld’s secretary of administration and finance, and Rosenberg was Senate ways and means committee chair.

“We worked extremely well together,” Rosenberg said. “And he’s a very substantive, policy-oriented guy. And so am I. So I’m looking forward to engaging and re-engaging with him.”

Democratic state Senator Jamie Eldridge of Acton hopes Baker also reaches out to the rank and file.

“I do think there needs to be a more decentralized legislature, and I think there could be opportunities for legislation to pass from a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and that could perhaps mean Charlie Baker needs to reach out to individual Democrats and Republicans to push an agenda that might not automatically happen with house and senate leadership,” Eldridge said.

Eldridge says Baker’s moderate stance could mean he’ll work successfully with the democratic legislature.

“He’s socially liberal, and those were positions that Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane swift took — and Mitt Romney, until he turned to the right as he prepared to run for president,” Eldridge said. “So I’m hopeful that even though I am a Democrat, that Charlie baker governs as someone more similar to a Bill Weld or a Cellucci than Mitt Romney.”

You can hear the audio feature of this story on WGBH’s website.

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