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Ballot measures, gubernatorial, Senate races looming for 2018

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 8/10/2017, 5:59 a.m.

A crowded 2018 ballot is shaping up. Progressive favorite U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren faces off against Trump supporters. Democrats line up to challenge Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. Meanwhile, a union-backed proposal raising income tax on the state’s wealthiest residents may sit beside a business-backed measure undercutting it by lowering the sales tax. Progressive referenda boosting support for workers also could appear.

The juxtaposition of economic ballot questions and high-profile elections generally draws higher voter turnout.

“The big difference between the election in a presidential year and a gubernatorial year is over a million voters that don’t show up,” said John Walsh, senior advisor to gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren and former Democratic Party chair. “Charlie Baker won with [about] 1,044,00 votes. With [roughly] 1,090,00 votes, Donald Trump lost [in Massachusetts.]”

Those elections reveal that a million voters who turned out to support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election stayed home during the 2014 gubernatorial one. With Trump supporters opposing Warren and the millionaires’ tax on the ballot, those formerly-absent Democratic-leaning voters may turn out this year, Walsh said.

Ballot measures

Raise Up Massachusetts has secured the Fair Share Act’s presence on the ballot. Nicknamed “the millionaire’s tax,” the measure will increase the tax rate on income over the first million dollars, with revenue directed to public education and transportation infrastructure.

The coalition also is working to get an item on the ballot that would gradually increase both the standard and tipped minimum wages to $15 and $9 by 2020. After that, both minimums would be pegged to cost of living increases.

Another likely ballot proposal would guarantee employees job-protected paid leave to care for a new child, severely ill or injured family member, or meet needs arising from a family member’s active military service. Employees also would be guaranteed job-protected paid leave to recover from their own serious illness or injuries.

Meanwhile, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts is exploring ballot propositions that would cut the sales tax from 6.25 percent down to 5 or 4.5 percent and enshrine an annual tax holiday weekend.

Baker’s balance

As a moderate Republican, Baker faces a potentially precarious balancing act in a blue state where one-third of voters supported Trump in 2016. According to The Boston Globe, Baker told fundraisers that to win reelection he will need votes from 60 percent of registered independents and 30 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile, the Boston Herald’s Joe Battenfeld argues that Baker also may need to find a way to secure Trump supporters’ votes, given his slim 40,000 vote victory in 2014. That election drew 2.1 million voters. John Walsh noted that in Massachusetts elections, about 1.1 million Republican voters reliably turn out, as do about 1 million Democratic voters. Another million Democratic-leaning independent voters are less predictable.

Raise Up’s ballot measures may push progressive issues to the fore and bring out voters who are working class and of color, said Lewis Finfer of Raise Up.

Meanwhile, if a sales tax cut makes the ballot, it could aid more conservative and business-focused candidates.