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Charlie Baker reflects as he completes his term as governor of the Masse

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In March, Baker will step into a new role, leading the NCAA.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks during an interview at the Massachusetts State House Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Boston, Mass. AP Photo/Reba Saldanha

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, an anti-Trump Republican who easily won re-election four years ago, learned his first political lessons listening to his Democratic mother and Republican father discuss the issues of the day.

“My parents were married for 60 years before my mother died and they never voted for the same person,” Baker, 66, told The Associated Press. “The dinner table was just a hilarious series of conversations about all sorts of things.”

Those listening skills — there was a reason he was given two ears and one mouth, his mother would say — proved essential when Baker, who is part of a tradition of socially moderate and fiscally conservative Republicans in the New England, took the helm of a liberal-leaning state. dominated by Democrats in 2015.

Baker battled blizzards, a faltering public transit system and a once-in-a-generation pandemic. He also drew the ire of former President Donald Trump by refusing to endorse or vote for his fellow Republican in 2016 and 2020. Trump, in turn, pounced on Baker, calling him a “RINO.” or republican in name only.

“Baker is bad on crime, disrespects our police, does nothing for our veterans,” Trump said in a 2021 email.

Baker is still reluctant to engage Trump directly, saying the GOP “needs to make a decision going forward on how they want to handle this message and hopefully they make the right one.” Out of necessity, Baker forged a bipartisan path. He couldn’t do much without the Democrats.

“I always thought it was a team sport. I never felt like it worked if we just thought about it from a win-lose perspective,” Baker said. “The American public is nowhere as extreme as social media and parties would lead you to believe.”

As he prepares to leave office next week, the 6-foot-6 (2-meter) former Harvard basketball player is considering his next job as head of the NCAA. The nation’s largest college sports governing body oversees some 500,000 athletes at more than 1,100 schools.

Baker takes office in March.

“It’s a huge part of how a lot of young people find themselves, build a foundation of their value systems and their self-confidence and that’s how a lot of kids in the United States end up going. in college,” Baker said.

Among Baker’s fans is her successor, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey, who last month became the first woman and first member of the LGBTQ community to be elected governor of Massachusetts. She takes up her duties next week.

Healey praised Baker, calling him a “valuable partner” who focused on finding common ground in a time of division.

“Governor Baker should be proud of his record of service to Massachusetts and the country,” Healey said when Baker announced he would not seek a third term. “I’m grateful to call him a friend.”

The state’s antiquated public transit system plagued Baker as governor.

Under Baker, billions were poured into replacing tracks, repairing signals and updating electrical systems even as officials dealt with runaway trains, smoke-spewing subway cars and trains at rush hour running on weekends.

Earlier this year, an entire branch of the metro, the Orange Line, was closed for 30 days to allow workers to carry out five years of repairs. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s problems have even caught the attention of the Federal Transit Authority.

Good news arrived this month with the opening of a new Green Line subway extension from downtown Boston to nearby Medford.

“The thing that people in elective positions need to understand is that you will get credit for the expansion because it is visible. You won’t get credit for anything you do on the core system, which is why a lot of people won’t,” Baker said.

Ironically, one of Baker’s harshest critics is the leader of the Massachusetts Republican Party, a Trump loyalist.

GOP party chairman Jim Lyons sided with the former president, who lost by double digits in both Massachusetts elections, to Baker.

“President Trump was 100% right when he said earlier this month that Governor ‘RINO’ Charlie Baker ‘did nothing for the Republican Party,'” Lyons said last year. “No Republican governor in America has done less to uphold Republican principles than Governor Baker.”

By far, the biggest challenge Baker faced was the coronavirus pandemic.

During the first 100 days of the pandemic, Baker held daily and live-streamed press conferences as leaders tried to bring the rapidly evolving public health nightmare under control.

One of the biggest lessons of these first few months is the need for clear and consistent communication in times of crisis, he said.

“When people are really anxious about something and when there’s so much information out there, some of which is in direct conflict with each other, it’s really important that public officials are out there and visible on a regular basis,” said said Baker. .

Baker said he hopes Healey will push for the development of renewable energy, one of his priorities. Baker had pushed unsuccessfully to invest $750 million in a clean energy innovation fund.

Although he has no immediate plans to return to politics, Baker wouldn’t rule it out.

He said the biggest unexpected lesson he learned as governor was how well he and his administration would be received by the public.

“When you spend as much time as we do in front of the media, people treat you like you’re their neighbor. You can be the good neighbor or the bad neighbor, but they treat you like a neighbor and they tell you all kinds of interesting things,” he said. “It was incredibly important to me.”



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