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June 16, 2014

Merrimack Valley donors help keep Baker ahead in fundraising

Democrat Martha Coakley might be ahead in the polls in the race for governor, but Republican Charlie Baker is winning the money race north of Boston, as well as statewide.

Baker, one of 10 hopefuls seeking to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, has outpaced his rivals in fundraising. As of Friday he’d raised more than $2.2 million and still had $913,000 cash on hand.

That’s compared to roughly $1.4 million raised individually by Coakley and Steve Grossman, the two frontrunners for the Democratic ticket.

Baker, a former healthcare executive, has tapped the pockets of conservative voters on the North Shore and Merrimack Valley — especially in places like Haverhill, Andover, Marblehead and his hometown, Swampscott, — a majority of which backed him in the 2010 elections, when he narrowly lost to Patrick.

“We like his politics and where he stands on issues like government spending,” said Susan Demoulas, a longtime Baker supporter from Andover, who gave $500 to his campaign. “We need to stop the spending. It’s out of control.”

Democrats outnumber Republicans about 3-to-1 among Massachusetts registered voters, but the state has elected four Republican governors since 1990, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. More than half of the state’s registered voters are listed as independent.

A recent Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll showed Coakley, the state’s attorney general, with a wide lead over her Democratic opponents.

In a possible general election matchup against Baker and three independents, Coakley leads 36 percent to 29 percent, the poll found.

But political observers say Baker’s sizable fundraising haul is a sign that he will be formidable in the Nov. 4 election. And if he wins, voters north of Boston are likely to play a major role in that victory.

“It’s going to be a very tight race,” said Robert Brown, a professor of communications and public relations at Salem State University. “Baker will do very well in this election. If I were a betting man, I might put my money on him. And I’m a Democrat.”

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