Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday he will not seek a third term, seriously diminishing Republicans' chances of keeping control of the governor’s mansion in a deep blue state.
Baker is one of three popular Republican governors in heavily Democratic states, alongside Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. Hogan will leave office in January 2023 due to state term limits and will likely be replaced by a Democrat.
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In Massachusetts on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also surprised some political observers by saying that she will not run for governor.
In a statement to colleagues obtained by Politico, Baker and Polito said, "After several months of discussion with our families, we have decided not to seek reelection in 2022."
"This was an extremely difficult decision for us,” they wrote. “We love the work, and we especially respect and admire the people of this wonderful Commonwealth. Serving as Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts has been the most challenging and fulfilling jobs we’ve ever had. We will forever be grateful to the people of this state for giving us this great honor."
Baker was first elected in 2014 and is one of the most popular chief executives in the country. But his approval rating took a hit amid the Bay State's initially rocky response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although popular in his state, Baker has found himself growing more at odds with his party, refusing to endorse or vote for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. He faced a Trump-backed primary challenger, but Massachusetts voters rejected Trump by large margins in both runs for office.
The departure of a popular Republican governor in a blue state will become one of the key pickup opportunities for Democrats in gubernatorial races. Once Glenn Youngkin, governor-elect of Virginia, is sworn in, Republicans will have a 28-22 edge in governorships across the country. Baker’s departure will likely help Democrats shrink this margin.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, co-chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said in a statement that Baker “has accomplished so much on behalf of his constituents in Massachusetts, and I’m incredibly proud to have worked closely with him at the Republican Governors Association for the last 7 years.”
“No matter the issue, whether it was how to handle the Covid-19 pandemic or how to boost economic recovery, Charlie has always been a valuable resource for us as governors. His success is proof Republicans are able to win and govern successfully in any state, no matter how blue it might be,” Ducey said. "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. We wish him and his family the best in whatever life brings him next.”
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The Democratic Governors Association appeared eager for the race. “Game on," Marshall Cohen, the group’s political director, wrote on Twitter.
Dear #MAGov #mapoli,— Marshall Cohen (@mscohen19) December 1, 2021
Game on. Let's go.