Top lawmakers, competition take measure of Gonzalez as Dem launches GUV race

Gonzalez was budget chief under Gov. Deval Patrick

[File Photo: SHNS]

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Sizing up a potential opponent on live radio Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker called Democrat Jay Gonzalez a “good guy.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo called him “competent,” and Newton Mayor Setti Warren welcomed the 2018 gubernatorial race’s first official entrant.

Gonzalez, who announced his campaign for governor on Monday, has a similar resume to Baker. Both men served as chief budget writer to a governor before entering the private sector as a health care executive. The Needham Democrat also has a good reputation among top elected officials who work closely with the governor and recall his service as secretary of administration and finance positively.

Quizzed by co-host Jim Braude on his monthly WGBH segment “Ask the Governor” about whether Gonzalez would be a good governor, Baker, a Swampscott Republican, said, “I don’t think he’d be better than me.”

DeLeo, who became the top Democrat in the House the same year Gonzalez took over as secretary of administration and finance, told the News Service, “I served with Jay when he was secretary of administration. Good person to work with, a competent guy and I’m sure he’ll be a good candidate.”

Senate President Stan Rosenberg said Gonzalez was a “terrific” secretary in the Patrick admininstration.

Gonzalez was budget chief under Gov. Deval Patrick, who defeated Baker in 2010 to win re-election. Baker held the same position under Govs. Bill Weld and the late Paul Cellucci in the 1990s.

Baker has not yet announced whether he will seek re-election in 2018, though he has amassed more than $4.7 million in his campaign account.

On Monday, Baker said it was “way too early” for a decision about seeking re-election.

Warren, a Democrat, has also been weighing a gubernatorial run and announced he would not seek re-election this year as mayor of Newton.

In a statement from his political spokesman, Warren praised Gonzalez: “As I continue to explore the possibility of running for Governor, I am heartened that Massachusetts Democrats are now assured of a smart, capable candidate who intends to contest this election. A competitive primary election campaign will help engage grassroots Democrats, force candidates vying to challenge Charlie Baker to build a solid campaign infrastructure, and raise awareness of the issues that will be at the forefront of the general election campaign.”

Warren spokesman Kevin Franck said the mayor was busy with city issues and would not be available Monday for an interview.

WATCH: Lawmakers React to Gonzalez Candidacy

Rep. Denise Provost, a Somerville Democrat, had positive things to say about both Gonzalez and Warren.

“When he was in the Patrick administration he was always very well prepared. He testified on many committees that I’ve served on,” Provost said about Gonzalez.

Provost said Warren “idolizes” the late Newton Mayor Theodore Mann, who was a Republican state representative decades ago. Provost said she worked for Mann at City Hall “straight out of law school.”

“I’ve met him a few times. He’s very personable, very thoughtful, a real policy guy,” Provost said about Warren. She said, “He idolizes Ted Mann who was a really nuts-and-bolts, good government kind of mayor in Newton for many years.”