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Baker wins race for governor with few black, Latino votes

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Baker wins race for governor with few black, Latino votes
Governor-elect Charlie Baker gives his victory speech at the Seaport Hotel.

By little more than 40,000 of the more than 2 million votes cast, Republican Charlie Baker secured his victory over Democrat Martha Coakley, winning a fiercely contested battle for the Massachusetts governor’s seat.

The race for the corner office was fought in virtually every corner of the state, with both candidates staffing offices in Boston’s Grove Hall area and campaigning heavily in communities of color in Massachusetts cities.

Analyses of the voting results suggest Baker did best in predominantly white and higher income communities, while Coakley maintained a strong lead in cities and particularly in black and Latino neighborhoods.

Baker’s share of the vote in Boston’s predominately black and Latino wards 12 and 14 more than doubled over his 2010 showing in the race against Deval Patrick for the governor’s seat, rising from 2 and 2.3 percent, respectively, to 6.3 percent in both wards last week.

In the 17 Boston precincts where Latinos constitute between 42 and 66 percent of the voting age population, Baker won just 23 percent of the vote, according to political strategist Josiane Martinez, who worked on the Coakley campaign.

In last week’s election, Democratic activists and several labor unions were part of a formidable get-out-the vote effort offset support for Baker. In the predominantly white sections of Dorchester, including Neponset, Cedar Grove and Savin Hill, state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, state representatives Dan Hunt and Evandro Carvalho and City Councilor Frank Baker were able to turn Coakley supporters out, helping secure victory for Coakley in all but two precincts in Ward 16.

The only Boston wards Baker won outright were South Boston’s wards 6 and 7, where he garnered 6,224 votes to Coakley’s 5,835. But Baker won several precincts in the city’s highest income precincts in Back Bay and Downtown Boston. While Coakley won Boston handily, with 66 percent of the vote to Baker’s 30 percent, Baker’s gains in South Boston and Back Bay mirrored a statewide trend of Republican support in predominantly white communities and in wealthy communities.

Despite Baker’s unprecedented outreach in black and Latino communities, however, there is little evidence black or Latino voters supported Baker in significant numbers. White voters did, according to Calvin Feliciano, a Springfield-based organizer with the Service Employees International Union Local 1199.

“The results show that black and Latino voters were on board with Martha Coakley,” Feliciano said. “Black and Latino voters are identifying more and more with Democratic Party values. White men are going harder to the right.”

Pre-election polls showed surging support for Baker in many of the state’s 27 cities. But on Election Day, Coakley beat Baker handily in all major cities. Where Baker picked up unexpected support was in higher-income suburbs, which have voted Democratic in recent elections. With Boston suburbs swinging Republican and Baker’s base in the South Shore, Worcester County and North Shore delivering strong leads, Coakley’s urban advantage was neutralized.

And then there was United Independent Party candidate Evan Falchuk, whose 70,000 votes Feliciano says likely cut into Coakley’s base.

“A lot of liberal-leaning voters were among his supporters,” Feliciano said. “At least two-thirds of his votes would have gone to Coakley.”

Coakley relied heavily on a vast campaign organization with nearly 5,000 volunteers ranging from Democratic state representatives to union activists. Baker ran a smaller get-out-the-vote operation, but benefitted from $12 million in advertising from the Republican Governor’s Association — $5 million more than the $7 million in advertising Coakley received from the largely pro-union super PACs backing her campaign.

While Baker did not gain much in the way of votes from black and Latino neighborhoods, he may have bought good will with his campaign activity in those communities, according to Josiane Martinez.

“For the first time a Republican was paying attention to the black community,” she said. “Both candidates campaigned in our communities — and that’s a good thing. It was an unprecedented effort to win in the black and Latino communities.”

On stage at the Seaport Hotel, Baker highlighted the moderate Republican themes he sounded during the campaign, pledging to work across party lines with the Democratic majority in the state House and Senate.

“It’s been a long, long ride, and it’s been bumpy at times, but we always knew that our vision to make this state great and improve our economy, to close the achievement gap in education and bring a better fiscal discipline and balance to Beacon Hill and bi-partisanship that so many people responded to over course of this campaign was the right way to go,” Baker said to a mostly white crowd of supporters at the Seaport Hotel. “Tonight the voters said yes.”

Voter turnout in Boston’s black community was relatively low, at 36 percent in Ward 12 and 35 percent in Ward 14. Citywide turnout was 41.9 percent.