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Nation's Second-Most Popular Republican Governor Won't Seek Reelection

MA Gov. Charlie Baker
MA Gov. Charlie Baker Photo Credit: Mass.Gov

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek a third term in office in 2022, according to an announcement made by his administration.

Baker, age 65, a moderate Republican who first took office in January 2015, announced on Wednesday, Dec. 1 that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito opted not to run in 2022 following “several months of discussions with (their) families.”

“This was an extremely difficult decision for us,” they wrote in a letter to constituents. “We love the work, and we especially respect and admire the people of this wonderful Commonwealth.”

Baker first ran for governor in 2010, when he lost in a tight race to incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick. He edged out Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley to take office four years later and overwhelmingly earned a second term in 2018.

“When the voters of this great Commonwealth gave us this opportunity to serve, we had plans. Lots of them,” they wrote. “They didn’t include 30 days of snow in our first 60 days in office. Or a natural gas explosion. Or a global pandemic.

“But with your support, and the creativity and resilience of the people of Massachusetts, we worked through these and other unanticipated crises and events to move our state forward.”

Baker and Polito said that while they’ve weathered the first year-and-a-half of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still more work to go, noting that the next year could be even more pivotal than the last, which informed their decision not to run for a third term.

“We have a great deal of work to do to put the pandemic behind us, keep our kids in school, and keep our communities and economy moving forward,” they wrote. “That work cannot and should not be about politics and the next election.

“If we were to run, it would be a distraction that would potentially get in the way of many of the things we should be working on for everyone in Massachusetts. We want to focus on recovery, not on the grudge matches political campaigns can devolve into.”

Baker had faced a potentially difficult Republican primary challenge from Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who was chairman of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in Massachusetts.

Trump endorsed Diehl in October while declaring Baker as a "RINO," or “Republican in name only.”

Despite that endorsement, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) emphasized that Baker's "success is proof Republicans are able to win and govern successfully in any state, no matter how blue it might be," while stressing he would have easily won a third term due to his popularity.

“Had he chosen to seek a third term I have no doubt he would have easily been re-elected because the voters recognize what a strong leader he has been for their state," RGA chair and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement.

Baker’s administration was one of the most aggressive Republican offices to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, following the lead of many Democratic governors in the region in installing lockdowns, mask mandates, and other public health restrictions that other members of the GOP resisted.

The two lawmakers noted that the pandemic shed light on the difficulties of the jobs they both have, including the time taken away from their families while they were busy governing.

“Done right, these jobs require an extraordinary amount of time and attention, and we love doing them,” they said. “But we both want to be there with (spouses) Lauren and Steve and our children for the moments, big and small, that our families will experience going forward.”

Baker, recently named the nation's second-most popular Republican governor, has drawn the ire from some other GOP members at times for going against the party’s wishes.

In his announcement, the governor said that he “is determined to continue to put aside the partisan playbook that dominates so much of our political landscape - to form governing partnerships with colleagues in local government, the Legislature, and the Congressional delegation.

“That bipartisan approach, where we listen as much as we talk, where we focus our energies on finding areas of agreement and not disagreement, and where we avoid the public sniping and grandstanding that defines much of our political discourse, allows us to make meaningful progress on many important issues.

“But today is about the future,” Baker and Polito concluded. “The next year needs to be about recovery, not about politics.” 

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