Massachusetts GOP Gov. Baker marks final full day in office

January 4, 2023 GMT
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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker presents traditional symbols to Gov-elect Maura Healey during a ritual exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at the State House in Boston. (Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)
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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker presents traditional symbols to Gov-elect Maura Healey during a ritual exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at the State House in Boston. (Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker engaged in a series of traditional ceremonies during his last full day as governor on Wednesday, marking the transition of power in the top office on Beacon Hill from Republican to Democratic hands.

During a private ceremony in the governor’s office the Republican handed the incoming governor, Democrat Maura Healey, a series of symbolic items including a bible dating to the 1800s and a gavel made from the white oak frame of the U.S.S. Constitution.

Two other items that passed hands — as they have in prior transitions — included a pewter key to the door to the governor’s office and and two volumes of the Massachusetts general laws dating back to the 1860s.

“It was a really beautiful and special moment,” Healey told reporters after the ceremony. “It’s so important that we respect those traditions and the continuity of government.”

Baker ended the day with a traditional, red-carpeted departure through the Statehouse and down the front steps of the historic building, symbolizing his return to private life.

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Although it’s known as the “Lone Walk,” Baker was accompanied by his Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and their respective spouses — First Lady Lauren Baker and Steve Rodolakis.

The group left the governor’s office on the third floor of the Statehouse and wound through the building following a red carpet before exiting through the front doors and walking down the long set of stairs into the murky January night.

They were greeted with a 19-gun salute followed by the song “How Far We’ve Come” by the band Matchbox Twenty, blaring through speakers on the front lawn of the Statehouse — a favorite of Bakers’.

The walk marked the end of Baker’s two terms in office.

During those eight years, Baker wrestled with series of challenges from blizzards and a teetering public transit system to efforts to steer the state toward a more sustainable energy future through the use of solar, offshore wind and hydro power.

He also led Massachusetts through a pandemic that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of state residents and drew the ire of former President Donald Trump after Baker refused to vote for him.

Baker’s departure clears the way for Healey to be sworn in as the state’s newest governor on Thursday.

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Healey, the first woman and first member of the LGBTQ community to be elected governor in Massachusetts, will take the oath of office in the House chambers at the Statehouse at about noon on Thursday.

Following the swearing-in, Healey is expected to outline some of the goals of her administration. That evening, Healey will host inaugural celebration at the TD Garden in Boston.

Earlier Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled 200-member state Legislature was sworn in for a new two-year term.

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka outlined a number of her priorities for the session including lowering the cost of prescription drugs and focusing on the state’s ongoing housing crisis.

She also pledged to use all the tax dollars from the recent, voter-approved “millionaire tax” for new investments in transportation and education.

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Baker, a former Harvard basketball player, has already lined up his next challenge — leading the NCAA. The country’s largest college sports governing body oversees some 500,000 athletes at more than 1,100 schools.

Baker steps into the new job in March.