FRAMINGHAM — Sporting a tie decorated with Christmas lights in celebration of his 57th birthday, gubernatorial hopeful Charles D. Baker bounded into Panza Shoes on Wednesday afternoon and made a cheerful declaration to everyone in the store: He was going to buy some new footwear.
“I could really use another pair of dress shoes. I’m like 12D, maybe,” he told Robert Bronzetti, an employee at the shop in downtown Framingham.
“I’m not much of a loafer guy,” Baker explained as he carefully looked over the collection of fancy shoes on display. “I’m more of a tie-shoe guy.”
Baker also expressed interest in more casual kicks.
He tried on a pair of New Balance sneakers with orange trim—size 13D—and was extremely pleased with how they felt, calling them “perfect.” Next up he slipped into some well-buffed Bostonian dress shoes
“God, they sure are shiny when they’re new,” he said.
He bought both pairs.
Baker, who launched his campaign for governor in September with a promise that a more authentic version of himself would emerge on the trail than during his losing 2010 effort, was relentlessly—often boyishly—cheerful during an hour-long tour Wednesday of this town a half-hour drive west of Boston.
Melding witty repartee with wonkish enthusiasm for policy, Baker showed none of the anger and outrage that sometimes marked his effort to unseat Governor Deval Patrick three years ago.
At the Framingham Parks and Recreation office, he seemed to revel in talking to Bob Merusi, a town official, about a local recreation area. Baker peppered him with questions about a park on the site where Cushing General Hospital used to be, and chatted excitedly about a new trail.
At a local insurance agency, he told a few people gathered around him that on this, his birthday, he was a “ripe old 39 for the 18th time.”
He also visited the town clerk’s office and chatted about bipartisanship with a woman who recommended he read a new book about how Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan worked together.
In a short interview, Baker weighed in on a controversial comment about gun control by a selectman in his hometown of Swampscott.
State law compels gun owners to keep stored weapons locked up and in a meeting last week, Selectman Barry Greenfield asked the town’s legal counsel to provide an opinion on whether that provision could be locally enforced. Some gun rights advocates took what he said to mean Greenfield was advocating for police to enter peoples’ homes to inspect their guns. The selectman has said his comments were misunderstood.
Baker, himself a former Swampscott selectman, paused and chose his words carefully speaking about the controversy.
He said Greenfield is “a smart guy and he’s always happy to think outside the box on things.” But “I don’t think the way he brought it up was particularly conducive a public debate,” Baker said.
Asked if, after about two months on the campaign trail, he had succeeded in his goal of being a more true of himself, Baker smiled.
“Let’s put it this way: most of the people who know me well have enjoyed their opportunities to participate with me on the campaign trail,” he said. “So I think that’s a yes.”
Baker, who is largely expected to be the GOP nominee for governor in 2014, was his party’s standard bearer in 2010. He lost the general election to Patrick by just over six percentage points.
Among the Democratic hopefuls for governor in 2014: State Attorney General Martha Coakley; Treasurer Steven Grossman; Donald M. Berwick, a former Obama administration health care official; Joseph Avellone, a biotechnology executive; and Juliette N. Kayyem, a former state and federal homeland security official.