Charlie Baker names Karyn Polito as his running mate

SHREWSBURY — Charlie Baker, the leading Republican candidate for governor, named former state representative Karyn Polito as his running mate on Tuesday, calling her a public servant in the mold of “one of both of our mentors – the late, great Paul Cellucci.”

Standing in a crowded diner in Polito’s hometown of Shrewsbury, Polito said she and Baker had bonded over their tenures in local government, their families, and a shared optimism for Massachusetts.

“I believe that the best days are ahead for our Commonwealth, and I know Charlie believes it, too,” Polito said.

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Polito, 47, ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 2010. Both she and Baker laughed when a reporter noted that she had received more votes in her bid than Baker did in his failed run for governor the same year.

Baker campaign advisers sought to paint Polito’s record as of a piece with the Bay State GOP mold established by former governors William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci, under whom Baker worked as a senior Cabinet official. And Polito, in response to a question about whether her politics belong under the Tea Party umbrella, described herself as “a mom, a business owner, and an optimist.”

Asked how Baker could improve his performance among female voters, whom he lost by 24 percentage points three years ago, according to a post-election MassINC poll, Polito replied, “I think he’s doing a good job today.”

Baker said he decided to ask Polito to join his ticket “before Thanksgiving,” after a series of conversations that began after the summer.

Baker’s campaign chairman, David Forsberg, said there was “good chemistry” between the two.

“The campaign is going to be about the future, but we have a good playbook from the past, and the playbook is Weld-Cellucci,” Forsberg said.

At Brody’s Diner in Shrewsbury – formerly The Pastrami Shack – Polito appeared to be a regular. Waitresses referred to her by her first name, and she called visits there a part of her work as a member of the Shrewsbury board of selectmen. During diner visits, she said, elected officials directly answered constituents.

Hanging on the diner walls were reminders of Bay State Republicans’ most recent success story: a photograph of former Senator Scott Brown, leaning on his GMC Canyon outside the US Capitol.