Coronavirus Has Some Governors and Mayors Duking It Out. Not Baker and Walsh.

Despite their differences, the Republican governor of Massachusetts and Democratic mayor of Boston are exuding similar traits of empathy and authenticity amid the crisis

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At a time when just about everything seems to be divisive or partisan, the leadership playing out in Massachusetts every day has former state Republican party chair Gene Hartigan grateful. 

“I think we are very fortunate... We have two people who understand process and understand the challenge of being under pressure," he said.

Hartigan is talking about Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, two very different leaders.

Baker is a Republican from a privileged, suburban family; a Harvard grad and policy wonk.

“Then you have a guy like Mayor Walsh, a street kid, a Dorchester kid like myself, who grew up and probably had to fight for every inch along the way,” Hartigan said.

Walsh survived a battle with childhood cancer, later with alcohol, and was shaped by his work with the unions. 

This time is especially difficult for those battling addiction. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sheds light on his own past struggles.

But despite their differences, Walsh and Baker exude similar traits of empathy and authenticity.

“People are pretty smart. They understand," Hartigan said. "They understand when someone’s trying to put one over on them or someone’s trying to sugarcoat a situation. These two gentlemen are not doing that.”

While some big-city mayor/governor teams have been known to publicly battle it out -- like Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo in New York -- Baker and Walsh are more likely to give shout-outs. 

On Wednesday, for example, Baker had this to say in his daily press conference: “We are very grateful to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the city for the support.”

Boston and the rest of Massachusetts are continuing to make an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

At his news conference hours later, Walsh said he appreciated Baker's "thoughtfulness" on reopening the economy and backed the governor's extension of the stay-at-home order.

“Rather than throwing bombs at each other, they’re actually looking at how they deploy their human capital,” said former Boston state Rep. Marie St. Fleur, a Democrat.

In her current job as a chief operating officer, St. Fleur works with other states. She has discussed and compared the leadership in those states with colleagues who live there and concluded that Massachusetts is "very lucky." 

“We have two people who are working collaboratively, who are putting the health and welfare of their citizens above profit," St. Fleur said.

She noted that no leaders are perfect but that Baker and Walsh understand that government exists to serve the people.

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