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Gov. Baker's Shift To Campaign Mode, And Mass. Voters' Deadline To Register

The Massachusetts primary elections are just three weeks away. Is Governor Charlie Baker now ready to start campaigning?

Sam Hudzik, NEPR: The governor has finished up his legislative business -- decided what bills to sign, veto or change. Not that he's looking for their suggestions, but you reported that Massachusetts Democrats have a suggestion for what Baker should do now.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: That's right. I mean, we all remember when Governor Baker came out of the Republican convention in late April and said that you probably would not see him campaigning for himself until the end of the legislative session on July 31. Now that that has come and gone, we're expecting the governor to soon hit the stump for himself.

And Democrats are pointing out the fact that the governor has not held a traditional town hall meeting -- the kind of event where it's an open forum that the governor schedules, invites members of the public and takes their questions. According to the Mass. Dems, he is one of six governors in the country who has not held an event of this type since taking office in 2015. And they kind of welcomed the governor to the campaign season and to the campaign trail by encouraging activists to call his office and invite him to their hometowns for a town hall.

Undoubtedly, Baker's going to do some debates in the fall. But is there any indication he's going to do one of those town halls like they're asking?

There isn't. And I spoke to his campaign team and there didn't seem to be a whole lot of enthusiasm for the idea of a town hall. He will be out there, they say he's been out there as governor holding events all across the state where he gets to engage with people, so he's not holed up in his office on Beacon Hill.

Whether or not he'll have the traditional kind of town hall event, I'm not so sure. But I think we will see him hitting the campaign trail soon, and I'm sure you will see him debate his opponents -- though there is little indication to suggest the governor is giving much credence to his primary rival, Scott Lively. So you may have to wait to see the governor on a debate stage until he gets paired off against one of the two Democrats running.

And Lively is also complaining now about a big cash infusion for Baker from national Republicans. Not that Baker really needed it because he's raised a ton of money on his own.

Certainly the governor does not need any help in the fundraising department. He ended the month of July with almost $9 million in his campaign account, while Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito has more than $3 million of her own that she can pour in to help the ticket. And that dwarfs what the Democrats have been raising.

But just as we saw in 2014 when the Republican Governors Association spent roughly $11 million and put that into a super PAC to run ads in support of Governor Baker, and also against the Democrat Martha Coakley at the time, they're already starting. And the RGA has put $2.8 million already into Massachusetts. There's a $2.4 million ad campaign up from the Commonwealth Future super PAC already trying to just promote the governor's record, particularly on the economy and tout his popularity.

So I think you're only going to see more money as the RGA has had very good fundraising over the past year. They have plenty to spend on races around the country. And it seems that they're interested in defending Massachusetts.

And, of course, on September 4 we've got those gubernatorial primary and also some other interesting ones around the state, including some really big legislative primaries out here in western Mass. But for voters interested in casting a ballot on September 4, they've got a deadline this week.

They do. They have to register to vote by Wednesday. This is the state's 20-day registration-prior-to-an-election deadline. There will be another deadline if you want to vote in the general, but if you're going to vote in the primary -- when a lot of these races are going to be decided -- you have to get on your local voter rolls.

And this is something that was challenged in court, has been subject to debate -- whether or not 20 days is too far out, and disenfranchises some people. But for now, it holds, and the deadline is Wednesday.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Sam Hudzik has overseen local news coverage on New England Public Media since 2013. He manages a team of about a dozen full- and part-time reporters and hosts.
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