MA-GOV: Will the G.O.P. Nominee Favor Gay Marriage?

To win statewide in New England, Republicans must nominate moderate candidates. In 2010 and beyond, does that mean we'll see Republicans who favor gay marriage? ...
by | July 10, 2009
 

To win statewide in New England, Republicans must nominate moderate candidates. In 2010 and beyond, does that mean we'll see Republicans who favor gay marriage?

The first answer to that question is likely to come in Massachusetts. As of this week, Republicans have two credible candidates in the race. One is Christy Mihos, a wealthy businessman who ran for governor as an independent in 2006, taking 7% of the vote. During that campaign, Mihos supported gay marriage.

While Mihos has some potential, the Republican candidate who starts out looking most promising is Charlie Baker. Baker, who is stepping down as head of Harvard Pilgrim Heath Care to run, is someone Massachusetts Republicans have been buzzing about as strong statewide contender for years.

Charlie_headshot Baker just announced he was running this week, so we know very little about his views on the issues so far. We did get this hint from the Boston Globe, however:

Baker drew on the image of former governor William F. Weld, a socially liberal and fiscally conservative Republican, in describing his own candidacy.

Once Baker formally starts campaigning, he'll likely be asked about gay marriage fairly quickly. Massachusetts, where gay marriage has been legal for five years, is challenging the federal law that forbids same-sex marriages from being recognized by the federal government.

Polls show that a narrow majority of Massachusetts residents favor gay marriage. For example, a Suffolk University poll from earlier this year, said that 50% of registered voters favored gay marriage, 33% favored civil unions, but not gay marriage and 12% didn't want any legal recognition of same-sex relationships (the rest were undecided or refused to answer).

Based on those results, it's a pretty safe bet that most Massachusetts Republicans oppose gay marriage. Yet, for Baker, there would probably be some benefit to being in favor of same-sex nuptials for the general election.

Next year will be a fascinating time to watch the way politicians position themselves on gay marriage. Democratic voters in blue states are beginning to demand that their politicians more actively support gay rights.

Governors such as John Baldacci in Maine and John Lynch in New Hampshire faced tremendous pressure from their most loyal supporters to sign gay marriage legislation, which both ultimately did. So, will the Democratic nominee for governor in Minnesota favor gay marriage? How about Rhode Island? Or Oregon? Or Wisconsin?

The other question is the one in Massachusetts. Republicans are desperate to regain a foothold in New England. Republican base voters, though, are desperate to stop the spread of gay marriage. That leaves Charlie Baker with a difficult decision to make.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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