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
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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Local News
5:06 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Healey Distances Herself From Coakley During Debate

Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General candidate Maura Healey tried to distance herself from her ex-boss, the current Attorney General and candidate for governor, Martha Coakley at a debate Tuesday.

During her campaign against former state lawmaker Warren Tolman, Healey routinely boasted of her accomplishments while working for Coakley in the Attorney General's office. But during the debate at the Boston Globe, Healey gently criticized some other work done in the office, a deal Coakley worked out with Partners Health Care.

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Politics & Government
3:25 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Grossman, Berwick Attack Frontrunner Coakley In Debate

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steven Grossman, right, speaks during a debate at the Boston Herald Radio Studio, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Boston. Listening are Martha Coakley, left, and Donald Berwick.
Credit (AP Photo/Boston Herald, Ted Fitzgerald, Pool)

With less a month to go before the primaries, the three Democratic candidates for governor met for a debate Monday on Boston Herald Radio — and this debate made the others look tame.

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Politics & Government
12:27 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Mass. Legislature Passes Flurry Of Late-Night, Last-Minute Bills

Like college freshmen scurrying to finish their term papers, Massachusetts legislators showed that procrastination doesn't always spell doom. Before last night's deadline, they squeaked through bills aimed at reducing gun violence, creating jobs and strengthening domestic violence rules.

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Local News
4:38 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Mass. Gets New Abortion Clinic Protection Law

Police in Massachusetts will have new powers to disperse crowds around abortion clinics under a new law signed by Governor Deval Patrick Wednesday.

The governor signed the bill flanked by the Attorney General and the Senate President, the two most powerful women on Beacon Hill. He praised the lawmakers' speedy response to the recent supreme court decision which struck down Massachusetts' 35-foot buffer zone law around abortion clinics.

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Local News
4:18 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Hundreds Gather At Mass. State House To Protest Gas Pipeline

The debate over a proposed natural gas pipeline across northern Massachusetts reached Beacon Hill on Tuesday. Several hundred people converged on the Boston Common to object to the plan. 

One of the protestors is Carolyn Sellars, who says her family's owned land in Winchedon since 1901.

"My family has protected for 113 years now and we got a notice from Kinder Morgan that they want to bring a pipeline right straight through our one hundred acres of land," she said.

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Politics & Government
3:13 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

State House Renovation Tab Nears $50M

Members of the Massachusetts House and their families and friends wish congratulations after being sworn-in to office in the House Chambers at the Statehouse in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.
Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Massachusetts State House renovation tab keeps growing.

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Politics & Government
5:09 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

State House Democrats Silent On Probation Conviction

As the probation verdict came down Thursday, the State House halls were silent.

When the jury returned with the verdict, there was no reaction from senators who were in the building debating a housing bill.

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Politics & Government
2:57 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

State Rep. Files Measure To Block State From Sheltering Undocumented Children

Today state Rep. Ryan Fattman, a Republican from Sutton, introduced a non-binding resolution on the House floor to stop Gov. Deval Patrick from sheltering immigrant children who have crossed illegally into the U.S.

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Local News
3:36 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Police Argue For More Control Over Rifle, Shotgun Licenses

The Massachusetts State House dome.
Credit Fogster

  Chiefs of police are urging Massachusetts lawmakers to restore a provision to a gun bill that they say could keep rifles out of the hands of dangerous people. Right now, police can deny someone a license to carry a handgun – even if the person passes a background check. 

The Massachusetts House voted to give police the same discretion when it comes to licenses for rifles and shotguns. But the senate stripped that section out of the bill and gun control advocates are furious.

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Local News
5:09 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Mass. Gov. Candidates React To Patrick's Stance On Child Immigrants

Candidates for Massachusetts governor are all over the place when it comes to Governor Deval Patrick's offer shelter a thousand children who were caught crossing into the U.S. illegally.

Charlie Baker, who touts himself as a moderate Republican, offered a carefully worded comment on the governor's plan to keep the kids at a military base in Chicopee or Bourne.

 "I think it’s incumbent on the states to be cooperative with the federal government on this issue given the humanitarian crisis that’s at hand," Baker said.  He laid out the conditions:

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Politics & Government
8:19 am
Fri July 18, 2014

State Senate Passes Stripped-Down Gun Bill

The Massachusetts Senate passed a wide-ranging gun bill Thursday, but not before stripping it of a key provision that would have given local police chiefs more discretion to deny licenses for rifles and shotguns.

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Politics & Government
6:28 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Mass. State Senate Passes Abortion Clinic Safety Bill

With almost unprecedented speed, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill Wednesday that was crafted after the Supreme Court threw out the state's so-called buffer zone law. 

The vote came just hours after the bill was cleared by committee, but the bill's passage will likely be followed by more legal action.
 

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