The Phoenix's David S. Bernstein interviewed the Republican nominee for governor, Charlie Baker, on Saturday, October 2, outside Needham High School after a campaign rally. Bernstein's profile of Baker's campaign appears online and in print this week. Below is the full transcript of their interview.
BOSTON PHOENIX: You've been thinking about running for Governor for a long time. Is there anything about being a candidate, about selling yourself to voters, that has been more difficult than you expected?
CHARLIE BAKER: Everything. Everything. This is not easy, and I spend a lot of my time learning as I go. I wasn't kidding when I said that I have loved the opportunity to learn so much more about Massachusetts than I ever would have known otherwise, about the people who live here and what they do, and how they make a life. It's a far more varied and diverse state than I ever realized. But I think being a candidate has, yeah, I've been learning all the time.
On that note – about learning about Massachusetts – I've heard your wife joke that you have this habit of staying within your comfortable set of friends. Some people look at you as a little out of touch with ordinary, average people. Was that to some degree true of you up until the campaign?
No. Most of my friends are ordinary, average people. Most of the people I work with are normal, ordinary, average people. I think one of the hard things about running for office, if you've never done it before, is walking up to a room full of people you don't know, and just walking up to people and throwing your hand out and saying, "Hey, I'm Charlie Baker and I'm running for governor." I guess the way I would describe it is it took me some at-bats to get me to the point where I could just do that, [to] walk into a fair or festival and literally start going from table to table to table.
I don't want to belabor the point, but you're not an average guy. You are a sort of privileged, upper-class individual. Aren't you a little bit separated from –
I am a middle-class-values kid. I've been very lucky in life, but I'm a pretty regular guy.
You think that you can relate to people in the state, what's going on in their lives?
Oh yeah, once you have several thousand conversations with people about – I mean, the most interesting question I ask is the one I ask people all the time every day, which is, how's it going? And when they say, "Fine," I say, "No, I really want to know." And then they start talking. And for a lot of people in Massachusetts, it's not going fine. And there's tremendous anxiety and frustration out there, about all kinds of things and you heard some of it today. One of the things I hear about all the time is this notion that "State government doesn't play by the same rules I play by. I had to make all kinds of changes to my life, and to the way I live, and I don't see Beacon Hill doing that to anywhere near the same degree that I have been." I hear that all the time.