GOP Know-Nothings: Hard-right Congressional candidates complicate Charlie Baker's run for governor

Plus, replacing John Tobin on the Boston City Council.
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  August 29, 2010

BY COZYING UP to hard-core Republican candidates like Bill Hudak (left), who once put out a lawn sign depicting Barack Obama as Osama bin Laden, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker (right) might have a hard time convincing mainstream voters he’s a moderate.

With a strong anti-incumbent mood at their backs, Massachusetts Republicans should be able to make significant gains this year, simply by keeping the focus on Beacon Hill Democrats.

What they don't need is for voters to get nervous that the Republican alternatives come from the wacko world of "birthers" and hate rhetoric.

The presumptive GOP nominees for state-wide office — including Charlie Baker for governor, Karyn Polito for treasurer, and Mary Connaughton for auditor — are safe, reasonably mainstream candidates in that regard.

But unfortunately for them, they're sharing the political landscape with Republicans running for the state's 10 seats in the US Congress. And those races have drawn a swarm of dubious characters, with little experience in politics, whose questionable beliefs are only just beginning to come to light.

For example, the Sun Chronicle in Attleboro reported this past weekend that Robert Chipman and Robert Delle, both running in Jim McGovern's district, believe that President Barack Obama is Muslim. A third candidate in that race, Michael Stopa, told that paper he believes Obama is an atheist who is "sympathetic to anybody who is opposed to America and American values."

One candidate has presented a particular problem for Baker. Last month, Baker appeared and spoke at an event for Bill Hudak, who is running for Congress in the district represented by John Tierney. Hudak, according to reports, once put a sign in his yard depicting Barack Obama as Osama bin Laden, and told reporters he had evidence that Obama was born in Kenya.

Even after the Phoenix, and Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, brought attention to Hudak's extremism, Baker refused to apologize for speaking at Hudak's rally, or to promise not to appear at future Hudak events.

The problem for Baker is that, while he wants mainstream voters to think of him as a moderate, his campaign needs to be carried door-to-door by Republican activists who are enthused by angry malcontents like Hudak.

That's led to such tightrope-walking as Baker's careful avoidance of global warming. Serious scientific opinion agrees that the planet is warming. Disagreement centers on what to do about it.

Yet it was only this past week, when asked directly at a debate on energy, that Baker publicly said that he believes the Earth's climate is warming, "partly" due to human activity.

Even that cautious admission puts Baker out of step with most conservative Web sites and talk shows — and the 24 Republicans running for Congress across the commonwealth.

The Phoenix has been unable to find a single one of those two dozen willing to say that they believe in global warming, despite the overwhelming scientific agreement on the issue.

In response to a Phoenix inquiry, many, like Rob McCarthy and Gerry Dembrowski (running against John Tierney and Ed Markey, respectively) declared flatly that they do not believe the climate is changing. Others, like Tom Weaver in Niki Tsongas's district, and Chipman in McGovern's district, said that they are unconvinced by what they see as mixed evidence.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Barack Obama, Politics, Tim Cahill,  More more >
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