Here’s why Charlie Baker’s re-election campaign chairman is ‘all in’ for Pete Buttigieg

"They’re both kind of happy warriors."

Boston , MA - 9/05/2018 -  Governor Charlie Baker announced that Boston philanthropist Jack Connors, a Democrat, will chair his re-election campaign -  (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section:  Metro, Reporter:  globe staff, Topic:  06governor, LOID:  8.4.3068275517.
Governor Charlie Baker with Boston philanthropist Jack Connors at a campaign event last September. –Barry Chin / The Boston Globe

Pete Buttigieg is coming back to Boston, and he’s aiming to leave with an additional $1 million in his campaign account — thanks to one of the city’s most prominent powerbrokers.

The South Bend, Indiana mayor and wunderkind Democratic presidential candidate is scheduled to appear at a June 20 fundraiser in Boston, as Politico first reported Wednesday.

“We’re all in for Mayor Pete Buttigieg,” reads an invitation from Jack Connors Jr., Sharon McNally, and Bryan Rafanelli.

If that first name — Jack Connors Jr. — sounds familiar, its because Connors has been a longtime fixture of Boston’s business and political establishment. A founding partner of the marketing firm Hill Holiday, the Brookline resident has stayed involved in local philanthropy and national politics during his retirement.

Advertisement

Despite being a self-described “lifelong Democrat,” Connors was the chairman of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s re-election campaign in 2018 (after helping raise more than $200,000 for the Massachusetts governor’s first run in 2014). And while he acknowledges that “at first glance” the blue-state GOP governor “would seem to have little in common” with the red-state Democratic mayor running for president, Connors says he’s “all in” for Buttigieg for similar reasons.

“There is a thread that for me connects the two of them as leaders I am happy to support,” he told Boston.com in a statement. “It’s honesty, intelligence, common sense, approachability and optimism. They each inspire hope, they avoid displays of ego, they seek solutions instead of defenses.”

Despite being from opposing parties, Baker and Buttigieg do share similarities. They’re both Harvard graduates that have been described as technocrats in office. They are both socially liberal and support LGBT rights (Buttigieg would be the first gay major-party presidential nominee). And on other issues, like rising cost of health care and college,they’ve both campaigned as pragmatists — sometimes to the frustrations of the more conservative and liberal wings of their respective political parties.

“They’re both kind of happy warriors, looking for a win that serves everyone in the best way,” Connors said.

Advertisement

According to the invitation for next month’s fundraiser, Connors and his fellow co-hosts are “seeking to raise at least” $1 million for Buttigieg’s campaign “to make a statement about how important this candidacy is to the future of the United States.” Tickets for the event are a $2,800 donation per guest, or $5,600 per couple. The location of the fundraiser was not disclosed.

McNally is the president of Camp Harbor View — a local summer camp and youth leadership program that Connors helped establish — and chief of staff of the Connors Family Office. Rafanelli is the founder of a high-end event planning company and hosted two Boston-area fundraisers for Buttigieg last month.

“We all know that this country is on the wrong track,” the three co-hosts wrote in the invitation for the June 20 fundraiser. “The rich are getting richer, which is okay – but the poor are getting poorer, and that’s not. Healthcare, education, infrastructure, voting rights, immigration policy and relationships with the rest of the world are all in disarray.”

The invitation says that “as Democrats” they share the sentiment of wanting to elect “anyone but [President Donald] Trump” in 2020. They called the Republican president’s 10,000 false or misleading claims, as counted by the Washington Post, a “new low point for the United States.”

“We deserve a president who wants to lead by good example rather than by bullying, lies and unkept promises,” the hosts wrote. “We believe that Mayor Pete Buttigieg just might be the right person to turn the ship around.”

Advertisement

Commending the 37-year-old Afghanistan War veteran’s “military and public service” and “remarkable talent to articulate his hopes for the future,” Connors, McNally, and Rafanelli said Buttigieg’s “improbable” candidacy “inspires courage, hope and optimism.”

“It is time for change, it is time for a new generation to take the lead, it is time for an honest person to reside in the White House again,” they wrote.