In a widely contested race that was neck-and-neck for most of the night, the Associated Press declared Republican candidate Charlie Baker the winner of the 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial election early Wednesday morning, defeating Democratic candidate Martha Coakley.
Following his 48.3 percent lead over Coakley, who has 46.7 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reported, Baker addressed the crowd at his election party, held at the Seaport Hotel, at about 1:20 a.m.
“We’re as fired up as you are. We’re as excited as you are,” Baker said in his speech. “We can’t wait to make this state sing, from one end to the other, across the Commonwealth, in every region, and every town, and every community, to build the great Massachusetts we all dreamed and hoped for.”
Coakley told the crowd through her spokespeople that she would not concede to Baker, and postponed her speech until Wednesday morning when all the votes would be counted. Baker supported Coakley’s decision to withhold conceding before all votes were tallied, he said.
“She put her heart and her soul and every ounce of energy that she had into that race,” Baker said to the crowd. “Every vote counts. I’m perfectly fine with giving her until the morning. That’s the way we work, folks, and that’s the way we should work.”
Baker and Coakley’s three independent opponents – Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick – garnered 3.3 percent, 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent of the vote, respectively, with 99 percent of the precincts reported.
Party attendees posed with “Baker for Governor” signs for photos and waved them as he spoke. Light-hearted music played throughout the evening, setting a celebratory tone. Though tensions ran high while Coakley pulled ahead at various times throughout the night, the majority of the evening was spent laughing, chanting and celebrating Baker’s accomplishments.
“I went through probably some of the same ups and downs that some of you went through,” Baker said of his campaign. “And I thought on a number of occasions about my opponent, the attorney general, Martha Coakley…and I thought about what she would go through.”
Prior to his decision to run in the 2014 gubernatorial race, Baker served under Massachusetts Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci from 1991 to 1998 as Secretary of Administration and Finance. He later became CEO of health care company Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.
Baker ran for governor in 2010, but was defeated by Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick.
Michael Prisco, 49, of North Reading, said he was not surprised by Baker’s win over Coakley and he is ready for a change in the Commonwealth.
“I’m a selectman in my town,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in the community, and everybody was ready for some new leadership. Up until now, it has been a little challenging for our state, so this is just a refreshing start, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Baker’s party also witnessed the defeats of multiple Republican candidates as the night progressed. Gasps accompanied the tense moments that followed when Coakley briefly pulled ahead, but the night ended with raucous cheers celebrating Baker’s apparent victory.
“In recent years, I just felt like there’s been a lot of spending and mismanagement of money,” said Jacqueline Smith, 69, of Milton, who identifies as a Democrat but voted for Baker. “And so I thought we were due for a change. He seems very sincere, and he has a lot of good ideas. I like the Democratic Party, but I think sometimes the management isn’t what it should be, and they spend too much money.”
Shawn Dooley, a Massachusetts Representative for the 9th Norfolk District who ran unopposed Tuesday, said he did not expect the gubernatorial election to be so close.
“I was honestly surprised. I think turnout was a little bit higher. The Coakley campaign did a great job of getting their vote out,” Dooley said. “It’s phenomenal that [it’s] democracy in action. It just shows that every vote counts.”
Coakley supporters gathered at The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel to wait for results. Fellow Democratic candidates U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and Attorney General-elect Maura Healy shared victories with supporters in ballrooms adjacent to Coakley’s, setting a victorious mood for the crowd of enthusiastic supporters.
Coakley served as Middlesex District Attorney from 1997 to 2007, when she became Massachusetts’ first female attorney general.
Jean Derenoncourt, 24, of Brockton, said he believed in Coakley due to her history of experience and political knowledge.
“Her history speaks for itself,” he said. “She is strong and dedicated, and she has the willingness to not only do what she believes, but also do what she believes would help all the people out there. She has the ability to give Massachusetts a reason to hope, and she has the knowledge and experience to shape the destiny of young people throughout the city.”
As the results fluctuated between Coakley and Baker throughout the night, proponents for the candidates became more enthusiastic. However, many left Coakley’s party as the night progressed and the chances of her victory gradually slipped out of reach.
Greg Turner, 59, of Waltham, said he would support Coakley “’til the last dog dies.”
“I voted for her because she’s more compassionate,” he said. “I’m a strong Democrat, and I stand with most issues that Martha Coakley stands for. She’s more compassionate than Charlie Baker.”
Veronica Turner, the executive vice president of a health care division of the Service Employees International Union, voiced her support for Coakley because of the candidate’s stance on health care.
“I believe Martha Coakley is the best candidate for the job,” she said. “I also believe that her values are more aligned with the members I represent – health care workers, like me — primarily women and people of color and low wage workers. I would be very ecstatic if we could elect a woman governor. She’s supported earned sick time. She’s done everything right.”
Turner said left-wing leadership is important for continuing the progress made so far in the Commonwealth.
“We’ve had eight years where we’ve had steady progress, and we need to continue that progress,” she said. “Even more now, there is this national narrative about low-wage workers. We were successful. We will have the country’s highest minimum wage. So there’s this national narrative that’s going to catch on.”
Bill Fairweather, 52, of the North End, left Baker’s election party in high spirits, despite the uncertainty surrounding his election.
“It’s a great night for the state of Massachusetts,” he said. “It’s a great night for the Republican Party, and I think it’s a great night for the United States of America.”