Now that state Attorney General Martha Coakley has achieved her long-expected victory in the Democratic primary for governor of Massachusetts, Bay State Republicans are feeling increasingly confident of retaking the statehouse they held from 1990 to 2006.
Recent surveys have shown a tight contest between Coakley, who lost the nationally watched special election for Ted Kennedy's seat to Republican Scott Brown in 2010, and Charlie Baker, former secretary of health and human services and near-winner in 2010 against outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick.
A Boston Globe poll of likely voters statewide conducted just before the primary showed Baker leading Coakley by a margin of 38 percent to 37 percent.
To outsiders, that may appear incongruous for a state known as the political home of such liberal Democratic lions as Edward Kennedy, John Kerry, and Barney Frank. But when it comes to governors, Massachusetts has a long history of choosing centrist Republicans over liberal Democrats, and doing so primarily on the issue of taxes.
"Sure, we have a $1.1 billion surplus now, and look how we got it," veteran Massachusetts Republican consultant Holly Robichaud told Newsmax, "Democrats [who control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature] raised the gasoline tax, the cigarette taxes, the MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] fares and utilities fees. And there is a new utilities tax and an Amazon.com tax. Need I say more?"
The state's vigorous anti-tax movement and the tea partiers are mobilized behind an initiative on the fall ballot that would keep the recent three-cents –per-gallon gasoline tax increase from rising higher without a vote from legislators. Buried within the language of the $500 million tax package enacted by the legislature is language saying the gas tax would be linked to inflation.
"Linking the gas tax to inflation was driven by the same philosophy that drove the graduated income tax," Edward F. King, a co-founder of the state's Citizens for Limited Taxation and 1978 Republican gubernatorial hopeful, told Newsmax. "Legislators get a bigger percentage of taxes without having to vote for a tax increase."
With little money behind it, the measure to thwart the automatic increase secured a spot on the fall ballot position when grass-roots supporters collected more than 120,000 signatures on petitions — far more than the 76,000 required for ballot certification.
Earlier this year, the gas tax and the initiative restraining its possible rise entered into the race for governor when Democratic front-runner Coakley said she thought the gas tax was only 10 cents per gallon.
It's 24 cents per gallon.
"You would think she would know the gas tax is 24 cents," Republican Baker said. "And to guess that it's 10 cents, which it hasn't been since 1983, I just think speaks to the fact that she's clearly completely out of touch with regular people."
Baker strongly endorsed the initiative dealing with the gas tax last year. Robichaud and other Massachusetts Republicans say it will not only help his candidacy but translate into the election of more conservative Republicans to the state legislature.
In recent years, Massachusetts Democrats have taken for granted the election of Democrats to most statewide offices, as well as to all of their state's U.S. Senate and House seats. But when it comes to the governorship, the election of a Democrat is by no means a foregone conclusion — especially when raising taxes is the issue.
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