- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Charlie Baker long has been seen as one of the brightest lights in the Massachusetts Republican Party.

As he seeks to put the governor’s office back in the hands of the GOP in a state where Democrats currently hold every statewide and congressional seat, Baker - a former health care CEO and state budget chief - has tried to make inroads into Democratic strongholds. He’s reached out to independent voters, moderate Democrats, women and minority voters, pointing to his mix of government and private sector experience.

Here are five things you need to know about Baker:

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REPUBLICAN “WEED WHACKER”

Baker has sold himself in part as an unabashed wonk - someone who relishes getting into the weeds of a problem to find solutions.

Baker cut his teeth in state government in the administrations of former Republican Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci - serving first as secretary of Health and Human Services for Weld and later as secretary of Administration and Finance for Weld and Cellucci. In 1999, Baker became CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, helping bring the company back from the brink of bankruptcy.

In 2010, Baker challenged Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and lost. More recently he was “entrepreneur in residence” for the venture capital fund General Catalyst.

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ECONOMIC PLAN

Baker’s economic plan includes using tax credits to reward business that hire welfare recipients and veterans and to help small employers offset the cost of a rising minimum wage, which is set to go from $8 per hour to $11 per hour by 2017.

Baker said his plan would also reduce fees for starting a business, increase affordable housing, and give minority business owners better access to the bidding process for public projects. Baker said he’d also seek a waiver from President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law and require that health care providers post prices for medical procedures.

Baker also has vowed not to cut local aid to cities and towns.

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EXPANDING EDUCATION

Baker has long been a fan of charter schools. As governor, Baker says he’d work with lawmakers to increase the number of charter schools and remove restrictions on the number of students who can attend them in the state’s lowest-performing districts.

Baker has also said he would work to make higher education more affordable for middle-class and working families, work to connect students to jobs, and explore other higher education options like offering three-year degrees at public colleges and universities and creating co-op programs, where students earn credits through their work experience.

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RAISE TAXES?

Baker has pledged not to raise taxes as governor, although he’s stopped short of signing the “no new taxes” pledge he took during his 2010 run for governor.

He’s also called for doubling the state’s earned income tax credit from 15 percent to 30 percent, phasing out the state inventory tax and exempting businesses earning less than $500,000 from the state’s corporate income tax.

Baker also said he supports repealing a law that links future increases in the gas tax to the rate of inflation.

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THOSE CAMPAIGN ADS

Like Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, Baker has been critical of some of the television ads funded by so-called super PACs, although he refused to sign a “people’s pledge” designed to discourage political ads by outside groups. He’s also refused to call for removal of an ad that suggested Coakley had failed to protect children, although he said he didn’t like its tone.

Baker has also benefited from the outside spending with more than $8.6 million supporting his candidacy, nearly all of it from the Republican Governors Association.

During the same period, groups opposed to Baker spent more than $6.3 million. Much of that money came from unions like the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Democratic Governors Association.

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