POLITICS
06/19/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Charles Baker: Massachusetts Republicans Pick Candidate To Take On Governor Deval Patrick

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) -- Energized by Scott Brown's upset victory in the United States Senate race, Massachusetts Republicans have chosen Charles Baker as their nominee for governor to face the Democratic incumbent and presumed candidate, Deval Patrick, this fall.

Mr. Baker, the former president of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, won the endorsement on Saturday over Christy Mihos during the Republican State Convention. Mr. Baker's likely opponent in the general election will be Mr. Patrick, who still faces a challenge for the Democratic nomination by a community activist, Grace Ross, and State Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who left the Democratic Party so he could run against the incumbent as an independent.

"This is not a complicated race," Mr. Baker told the roughly 3,000 delegates attending the convention after his selection. "The choices are clear. If you like more out-of-control state spending, then vote for Deval Patrick. He's your guy. If you believe state government doesn't need serious reform, but more patronage and insider deals, then vote for Tim Cahill. But if you believe, like me, that Massachusetts cannot afford four more years of tax-and-spend mediocrity ... then you should vote for me. I'm your guy."

The selection of Mr. Baker showed a party further united in the aftermath of Mr. Brown's election in January to the Senate seat that was held for decades by Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat. It also cleared the way for Mr. Baker to be the Republican Party's unchallenged candidate in a general election

The party also endorsed Mr. Baker's running mate, State Senator Richard Tisei, for lieutenant governor; State Representative Karyn Polito for treasurer; and a former Massachusetts Turnpike board member, Mary Z. Connaughton, for auditor.

No Republican candidate stepped forward for attorney general, the sixth constitutional office in the state, but the party decided to allow Kamal Jain, a high-tech executive, to also appear on September's primary ballot for auditor, after he initially appeared to fall short of the necessary support.

Mr. Baker, who was budget chief in the Republican administration of former Gov. William F. Weld in the 1990s, was the clear favorite for governor among the delegates. But Mr. Mihos aimed for a primary showdown, and he needed the support of only 15 percent of the delegates to qualify. In the end, he garnered just 318 votes to Mr. Baker's 2,544 -- about 11 percent.

Mr. Mihos had argued that a robust campaign would generate news coverage for Republican candidates up and down the ballot.

"Let's have a primary, and let's take this to all the people," he said to a tepid reception from the delegates.

Afterward, Mr. Mihos said he planned to support Mr. Baker.

"The people spoke," he said. "I've been an outsider, and as an outsider, you make a lot of enemies."

Baker aides had aimed to avoid a divisive and expensive primary, which would have expended resources they want to use in the fall campaign. They summoned former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the party's unsuccessful 2006 candidate for governor, to nominate Mr. Baker. Mr. Mihos briefly left the Republican Party in 2006 to challenge Ms. Healey as an independent.

The Baker camp was also trying to husband its money and energy because of the prospect of a three-way race. Mr. Cahill is trying to claim the same ground as Mr. Baker as the fiscally conservative alternative to Mr. Patrick. He shook hands outside the convention hall where the Republicans were meeting, saying he plans to work any large crowd.

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