Baker spent part of his childhood in upstate New York, and part of it in the Boston suburb of Needham. His father was a Republican who worked for the Westinghouse Corporation and later served as a cabinet undersecretary in the Nixon and Reagan administrations. His mother was Democrat, and on the campaign trail Baker has often cited how he grew up in a household where politics was often discussed, and often disagreed upon.
He attended Harvard University, where he received a BA in English, and went on to receive an MBA from Northeastern University. He served as a co-director of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute think tank, before being hired as Undersecretary of Health and Human Services in the administration of Gov. William Weld in the early 1990s. He later was appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and then Secretary of Administration and Finance. In that position, he helped create the controversial financing plan for the Central Artery Third Harbor Tunnel Project (commonly known as the “Big Dig”). Opponents have charged that the financing plan led to cost overruns and the underfunding of other projects, while others have praised Baker’s work on the plan.
Baker returned to the private sector in 1998, where he became the CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and later its parent company, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare. Baker has been credited with turning the troubled company around; bringing it from heavy losses into profitability. Critics, however, have pointed out that Baker laid off workers, outsourced some jobs, and pulled the company out of some markets as part of the restructuring.
In 2004, he was elected a selectman in his hometown of Swampscott, and was rumored to be a possible candidate for governor in 2006, but declined to run. After leaving Harvard Pilgrim in 2009, Baker decided to run for governor in the 2010 election. He secured the Republican nomination, but lost to incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick in a four-candidate race that included independent Tim Cahill and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein.
Baker announced last year that he would again be a candidate for governor, and secured the Republican nomination in September, defeating Tea Party-alligned candidate Mark Fisher.
He lives in Swampscott with his wife, Lauren. The couple has three children: Charlie, A.J., and Caroline.
Where they Stand
Where candidates for Mass. governor stand on casinos
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