Governor Charlie Baker faces a primary challenge from an ultra-conservative, antigay pastor who failed to get 1 percent of the vote in the last election. One of two Democrats — both of whom are struggling to build name recognition and amass funding — await in the general election. And Baker himself said he doesn’t intend to actively campaign until August.
That sleepy surface, however, is belied by something else: Baker’s own busy bank account.
The Swampscott Republican’s reelection campaign, which has been quietly toiling in its Allston headquarters since the start of the year, paid more than $25,000 late last month to an upstart Washington, D.C., firm that specializes in, among other things, identifying potential political and “reputational risk” for its clients.
Baker has no clear opponent in November, yet. But to put the expense in context, the single $25,415 payment to Percipient Strategies outpaced what either Jay Gonzalez or Bob Massie — the two Democrats running for governor — raised for their entire campaigns in the same two-week reporting period.
The payment is also larger than what all but one of Percipient’s five federal clients have paid it thus far this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign spending.
Founded in 2016, Percipient Strategies is run by two former Republican National Committee researchers and Boston-area college grads who offer clients everything from “due diligence” research to opposition monitoring. They also offer to keep tabs on opponents in order to “turn ostensible crises into opportunities.”
“As a relatively new firm, we are willing to go the distance with our clients,” partners Matthew Alonsozana, a Boston College grad, and Naji Filali, a Harvard University alum, wrote on the firm’s site.
Baker’s campaign aides say the payment is all part of organizing and building a political organization seven months before the general election. He and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito are sitting on more than $11.5 million between their two campaign accounts, and Baker reported having at least 24 campaign staffers on his payroll as of late April.
In a recent Boston Globe/UMass Lowell poll, 80 percent of the likely Democratic primary voters in the Third District voiced approval for the job he’s doing.
Baker’s campaign also is getting help on the research front. The state Republican Party has hired the America Rising Corp., a Republican research and communications firm, to do its own digging. The party paid the firm $6,000 in early March, according to state campaign finance records.Reach Matt Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.