Sarah Birnbaum

State House Reporter, WGBH Radio

Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH Radio’s political and State House reporter. When she’s not on the campaign trail, she loves telling stories about health care and education policy, and all the issues that come through the Legislature that matter to voters.

Before coming to Massachusetts, Sarah worked for CBS Network News in New York, where she covered stories ranging from the Virginia Tech shootings to the Clinton/Obama primaries to the Academy Awards. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and CBS Radio, and on stations throughout Massachusetts.

Sarah has a B.A. in art history and English literature from Stanford University.

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Politics & Government
1:56 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Mass. Blue Law Keeps Bay Staters From Shopping On Thanksgiving

In most of the country, national chains like Best Buy and Target open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. But in Massachusetts, a state law keeps shoppers at the dinner table.

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Local News
5:26 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Health Connector Hiccups For Immigrants

Some immigrants are having trouble signing up for insurance on the Massachusetts health care exchange website. 

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Politics & Government
3:13 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

DeLeo Won't Back Patrick's Plan To Cut Aid To Cities And Towns

Massachusetts House Speaker Bob DeLeo – the top Democrat in the House — says he will not back the governor’s plan to cut $25.5 million in direct state aid to cities and towns. 

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Local News
4:57 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Markey Slams Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

Credit Richard Vogel/AP via NPR

Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators are planning to vote against the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey say they’re opposed to the crude-oil pipeline, which would run from Canadian tar sands to Gulf coast refineries.

Markey argued on the Senate floor the pipeline would enable Canadians to export oil out of the United States. 

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Politics & Government
9:16 am
Tue November 18, 2014

Health Connector Website Relaunches Smoothly

The Massachusetts Health Connector website.

State officials say the new Massachusetts health-care website is running well, despite some minor glitches.

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Politics Government
5:06 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Patrick Hopes To Spare School Aid In Pending Budget Cuts

Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says he’d like to spare public schools from the next round of budget cuts.  

Governor Patrick says he's working up a plan to close the 325 billion dollar budget gap : “The only thing that I would not like to go near is chapter 70 funding but we’re looking to see if we can get  there with everything else on the table.”

Chapter 70 funding is state assistance for public schools.  The administration has also said  it won’t dip into the state's rainy day fund.

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Politics Government
3:13 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Patrick Sends A Commutation And Four Pardons To The Governor's Council

Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says he is acting in the interest of justice in commuting the prison sentence for a nonviolent drug offender and granting 4 pardons.

"There’s very strong cases made in the five recommendations that I have and I think some basic justice that we can do and should do.  And now it’s up to the governor’s council."

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Local News
5:50 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

After Gas Tax Defeat, Mass. House To Tackle Transportation Funding

Incoming Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg says lawmakers will have a challenge ahead of them when it comes to paying for road repairs.  That's after voters last week said "no" to automatically raising the gas tax with inflation.

“It causes a bit of a problem but the voters have spoken. And it’s gone. It’s off the table. We have to think about how we’re going to finance transportation going forward.”

Politics & Government
11:18 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Charlie Baker's The Next Mass. Governor. Now What?

Bleary-eyed Charlie Baker staffers stumbled into a room at the Seaport Hotel Wednesday morning. They'd been following returns all night.

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Local News
4:46 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Baker, Coakley Make Their Final Pitch To Voters

Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker their final pitches to voters on Monday, the last full day of campaigning before the election for Massachusetts Governor.

At a small diner in Braintree, Baker gave hugs, put on a Braintree baseball cap -- backwards -- and gratefully accepted a gingerbread man decorated to look like him. he joked around with voters, like city Councilman John Mullaney.

"It’s the first time I’ve ever gone Republican," Mullaney said. "I’m going to my psychiatrist"

You know, it won’t hurt," Baker told him.

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Local News
8:27 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Baker, Coakley Strike Emotional Tone In Final TV Debate

Credit AP Photos

Candidates for Massachusetts governor Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker covered little new ground when they met last night for the final televised debate. But both become emotional at one point.

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Politics & Government
8:19 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Coakley, Baker Go On Offense In Debate

Charlie Baker, left, and Martha Coakley debate at NECN.
Credit Courtesy NECN.

The major party candidates for Massachusetts Governor squared off in their most heated debate yet Tuesday night, as the candidates traded accusations and vigorously defended themselves.

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Politics & Government
9:21 am
Wed October 22, 2014

Baker, Coakley Trade Tax Barbs, Want To Be Liked In Debate

Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker debate at WGBH Tuesday night.
Credit Meredith Nierman / WGBH News

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker and Democrat Martha Coakley accused each other of misleading voters about their tax plans at Tuesday night's WGBH News/Boston Globe debate.

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Politics & Government
9:45 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Ed Markey, Brian Herr Square Off In Senate Race Debate

Generating little attention this year is the election for U.S. Senator in Massachusetts. Democratic incumbent Ed Markey faces former Hopkinton selectman, Republican Brian Herr.

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Local News
4:41 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

U.S. Budget Cuts Could Endanger Local Ebola Efforts

Health experts say federal budget cuts could threaten Massachusetts’ ability to fight Ebola if it comes to the state.
 
Dr. Paul Bidinger is Chief of Emergency Preparedness at Mass General Hospital.
 
Testifying before state lawmakers on Thursday, he said hospitals use federal funds to buy protective suits and to support emergency training exercises.
 

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Local News
4:07 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Braintree Mayor Describes Ebola Confusion

Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan faced a panel of state lawmakers Thursday about last weekend’s Ebola scare in his town.

Mayor Sullivan described confusion and communication problems between emergency workers on the ground and state department of public health officials.

“Cell phones created a lot of static noise, supervisory staff could not hear, we had different individuals on different cell phones all doing their best but having individual conversations with DPH personnel.”

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Politics & Government
4:31 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Super PAC Ads Hit Both Sides In Mass. Governor's Race

In the Massachusetts Governor’s race, outside groups on both the Republican and Democratic sides are spending millions of dollars.

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Local News
3:53 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Mass. Dems, GOP Roll Out The Big Names This Week

Massachusetts Democrats and Republicans are rolling out the big names this week to campaign for their candidates for Governor.

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Local News
5:20 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Kerry Rings The Alarm On Climate Change

 

Secretary of State John Kerry says the country and the world need to confront the threats of climate change while there's still time.

 

“I know that climate change to some people can feel like a distant future prospect, maybe even a future challenge.  That’s dangerous – falling prey to that perception.  Because it’s not.”

 

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Politics & Government
1:34 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Kerry Says Saving Kobani Not Coalition Goal

John Kerry spoke in Charlestown Thursday.
Credit Howard Powell / WGBH News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that protecting the Syrian border town of Kobani is not the main objective of U.S.-coalition forces.

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Local News
6:36 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Coakley, Baker Spar Debate Super PACs, CEO Salary

Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, and Democratic nominee Martha Coakley squared off Wednesday for the second time in 12 hours. They debated issues ranging from TV ads to Baker’s former salary.
 
Business leaders sipped coffee and ate breakfast, while the candidates stood next to each other at the front of a large hotel ballroom.  On the menu? Eggs, potatoes and superPACS.
 

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Local News
5:31 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Baker, Coakley Swap Accusations Over DCF

Credit AP Photos

Democratic candidate for Massachusetts Governor Martha Coakley and Republican candidate Charlie Baker continue to accuse each other of failing the state's most vulnerable kids.  The Coakley campaign is lashing out at Baker’s record when he was secretary of health and human services and responsible for the state's child welfare agency, in the early 1990s. Coakley is criticizing Baker’s decision at the time to give back money that had been allocated to the department.  “He was the only one in this race who could have supplied more funding, more opportunities to do the job they needed to do an

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Local News
5:03 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Michelle Obama Stumps For Coakley

First lady Michelle Obama and Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley wave to supporters at the conclusion of a Coakley for Governor campaign event, Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, at the Strand Theatre in Boston.
Credit (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

First lady Michele Obama campaigned today Friday for Massachusetts attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor Martha Coakley.
 
Hundreds of people snaked around the block and into the Strand Theater in Dorchester to listen to Michelle Obama and Martha Coakley. Coakley’s speech focused on policy. She drew the most applause when she referred to the future governor as she.
 
“And the next governor must be a good partner to the business community.  She must— yes, we like the sound of that!”
 

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Local News
5:09 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Coakley Outraged By GOP DCF Attack

Martha Coakley defended her record on the Department of Children and Families scandal Thursday.

The race for governor took a dramatic turn when a Super PAC backing Republican Charlie Baker released an ad with some damning claims about Democrat Martha Coakley's record.

“More than 50 children, abused, neglected, lives cut short, all while under the care of the Massachusetts department of children and families”

This ad goes on to blame Coakley for the problems at DCF. The ad was funded by a PAC backing Republican Charley Baker.

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Local News
8:20 am
Wed October 1, 2014

A Closer Look At Coakley's Vision For 'Universal Pre-K'

In Democrat Martha Coakley’s primary night victory speech, she made this promise:  

“When I am Governor, there will be universal pre-k for all children.”

  But Republicans are calling her pledge just another empty promise from a career politician. Earlier this week in Quincy, Coakley engaged in one of those awkward rituals of the election season: she played with 3 and 4-year-olds in front of flashing cameras.

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Local News
4:51 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Baker Makes Pitch To Women At Fundraiser

The Republican candidate for Massachusetts governor is making a big pitch to women, but he has a lot of work to do.

Recent polls show Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley has a 20 point lead on Republican Charlie Baker with women. In Baker’s first run for governor in 2010, he lost that key demographic by 24 points.

This time around, Baker chose a woman as his running mate, former State Representative Karyn Polito. And Baker's wife Lauren and 17-year-old daughter Caroline are campaigning for him.

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Politics & Government
4:09 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Wynn Will Stay Out Of Casino Referendum — For Now

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, right, gestures while being interviewed by reporters after a meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, who voted in favor of a Wynn casino to be built in Everett, Mass., in Boston, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.
Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Wynn Resorts, which was awarded the sole casino license for greater Boston Tuesday, says the company is staying out of the fight over whether to repeal Massachusetts' casino law — for now.

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Local News
5:05 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Democratic Quincy Mayor Endorses Baker

For a Republican to win a statewide race in Massachusetts, he has to attract voters from all parties.  But will Tuesday's endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker by a Democratic mayor lead to more votes?

The South Shore is a battleground. In the 2010 election for governor, Baker won almost every local community. Quincy went to Democrat Deval Patrick, but the vote was split.  Former State Treasurer and Quincy resident Tim Cahill won 25 percent.

Now, Tom Koch, the Democratic mayor of Quincy, is crossing party lines to endorse Baker:

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Local News
4:28 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Was There Unity At The 'Unity Breakfast'?

Gov. Deval Patrick talks to the crowd at the Democrats' post-primary "unity breakfast'.
Credit Abbie Ruzicka / WGBH

A day after the primaries, Massachusetts Democrats crowded into a Boston hotel for a ritual gathering - the "unity breakfast." 

 There was no breakfast served at the unity breakfast. Which begs the question - was there unity? The losing candidates took condolences and fist bumps and put on a brave face. Party favorite Warren Tolman was trounced in his bid for the nomination for Attorney General. 

"You know, I got a great life. A great wife. Three wonderful kids. I'm good, I'm blessed," he said at the breakfast.

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Politics & Government
7:39 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Slim Margin Dampens Martha Coakley's Victory Ahead Of General Election

Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley speaks to supporters as she claims victory in the primary election, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Boston.
Credit (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley won the Democratic primary for governor Tuesday night, narrowly beating her closest rival, Steve Grossman, setting up a showdown with Republican nominee Charlie Baker and three independents in November.

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