Baker changes tune on timing of Olympic vote

Gov. Charlie Baker back in March articulated a clear preference and rationale for a November 2016 vote on an Olympics ballot question, but now says he does not have a firm opinion on when the vote should occur.

"Governor Baker is a supporter of the ballot initiative process but has no preference as to when the timing of any potential Olympic referendum should be held," Baker deputy communications director Billy Pitman said in a statement to the News Service Wednesday.

The Boston Globe, citing an anonymous source, reported Tuesday that Baker had suggested at a fundraiser that the vote could be "moved up." The News Service subsequently requested clarification on the governor's position.

On March 27, following a Boston 2024 briefing with his Cabinet, Baker told reporters, "Since Boston vote's particularly important to this, in my own opinion, I think we should do it in November of '16. That's going to give the most number of people an opportunity to come out and vote, and it's pretty clear that if you just look at historical voting patterns that's really when people do come out and vote."

Secretary of State William Galvin that week suggested to the Globe that the state's March 2016 presidential primary election might make more sense so the issue doesn't get overwhelmed by presidential politics.

Two days before his comments on the timing of a referendum, on March 25, with two potentially conflicting Olympics referendum questions percolating, Baker said he preferred one question and said the Legislature could agree to a question and order it placed on the ballot, averting the need for signature gathering.

Baker continues to believe one ballot question would be less confusing for voters, but communications director Tim Buckley said the governor was only "speculating" in the past when commenting on the ballot process.

"The Governor supports the ballot referendum process, does not get to decide when a vote takes place and was merely speculating on a number of possible scenarios when asked about them," Buckley said in an emailed statement to the News Service.

He also said Baker feels it's "too early to say" whether all the parties could come to a consensus on a single ballot question.

"He believes it is a good thing that all the interested parties appear to be in favor of giving the voters the chance to weigh in on this and feels they should work out the timing as they see fit," Buckley said.

Evan Falchuk, who ran against Baker in last year's election and now chairs Citizens for a Say, signaled Wednesday that his group plans to forge ahead with its November 2016 ballot question "no matter what."

"We have the volunteers to do this ballot question. The people deserve a real, binding vote on the issue not an advisory opinion," Falchuk said in a statement. "I am greatly concerned that this suggestion is a political gimmick by the Governor. We hope that he will reconsider his position. The voters deserve better than more political intrigue."

Falchuk added, "We are full steam ahead with a true ballot question. If I were to guess, I believe the reason they're floating this idea is because they are afraid they will lose in November 2016."

Voters across Massachusetts are scheduled to head to the polls once before next November, for the March 1 presidential primary.

US Olympic Committee members meeting in California on Tuesday reportedly expressed confidence in Boston 2024's bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics, but expressed hope that public support for the bid in Massachusetts would grow in the coming months.


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