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Democratic governor hopeful Robert Massie makes his case to replace Gov. Charlie Baker

Democrat, and candidate for governor, Robert Massie hopes to replace Governor Charlie Baker. (Courtesy Photo)

SOMERVILLE — Robert Massie knows it’s a longshot to unseat Gov. Charlie Baker.

The 61-year-old Episcopal priest has just $21,000 in the bank to battle the most popular governor in the U.S. with a war chest of $7.8 million.

“I know it’s an uphill climb, I’m not crazy,” Massie said. “But I’m not worried at all. The governor’s poll numbers demonstrate he can’t break 50 percent approval on any major issue. All I have to do right now is win the primary. I am keeping pace with Jay Gonzalez and then we go into the general.”

In the September primary, Massie will face Gonzalez, who served as the budget secretary for former Gov. Deval Patrick. Last week, former Mayor Setti Warren of Newton withdrew from the race, saying the financial hurdles were too great to unseat Baker.

A March survey of voters by MassINC Polling Group for WBUR found 74 percent have a favorable view of the governor. Nationwide, the governor enjoys a 71 percent favorability rating, the highest of any governor in the nation, according to Morning Consult Governor Approval Rankings.

But Massie is not impressed.

“People may like him, but a better question is: has he done anything that helps you?” he said.

On the poll numbers, Massie says those will change as Bay State voters get to know him and review Baker’s Republican record.

“If you look at it as just Charlie versus me, the matchup doesn’t look that strong,” he said. “But if you look at Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s race against then-Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts), she won by 7 percentage points.”

While the public perception of Baker is that of a social liberal on the opposite side of President Donald Trump, that’s not exactly true, said Massie.

“Baker supported the president using local police as an extension of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers, blocked the Syrian refugees from coming here, and like Trump, he is trying to cut people off Medicaid,” he said. “If you look at his actions, he is closer to Trump than you think.”

Matt St. Hilaire, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, did not return a call seeking comment.

Massie, like Gonzalez, supports the so-called millionaire tax that would add a 4 percent surtax on incomes in excess of $1 million. Among his top priorities, he said, is to remove government obstacles on renewable energy; more affordable housing; adopt a single-payer healthcare system that would cover everyone under one, publicly-financed insurance plan, and raising the minimum wage to $15.

He can’t say how much these initiatives would cost or how he would pay for them. But Massie said he is willing to have a conversation about adding tolls to more roads, and raising the gasoline tax.

“Look, voters don’t want to pay more taxes because they feel it would go into the hands of someone they don’t trust,” he said. “But if someone tells them the reasons and where the money will go, voters will support them.”

Massie has a compelling personal story. Born with hemophilia, a debilitating blood disease, he was robbed of the ability to walk. While doctors told his parents he might never walk unassisted, Massie struggled to prove them wrong and walks today.

In 1966, at age 9 in his home in Irvington, N.Y., he met heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. His family knew famed photographer Gordon Parks, the first African-American photographer for Life Magazine, who was doing a photo series spending a week with Ali. Massie’s parents asked Parks to bring Ali him to visit their son.

“He had just changed his name from Cassius Clay, so I wasn’t exactly certain who Mr. Ali was,” recalled Massie. “But he came up the stairs to the porch where I was sitting in a wheelchair and said, ‘Hello kid, I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.’ Then he sat down on our porch swing, and at 240 pounds, snapped it. We talked for an hour, I asked him to show me his muscles, which he did. He was very encouraging.”

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