BOSTON (CN) – After a divisive second term that brought criticism from his own party over Covid-19 safety measures, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said he will not seek reelection in 2022.
Committing his focus in the next few months on the state’s recovery, Baker told supporters in a statement with Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito this morning that the potential for “grudge matches” on the campaign trail is too big a risk to take on.
“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,” the two Republicans wrote. “That work cannot and should not be about politics and the next election.”
A few years ago, Baker was considered among the nation’s most popular governors, a Republican leading the dyed-blue-in-the-wool commonwealth. He was also a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, and in 2018 he warded off a primary challenge from a pro-Trump candidate.
While Baker’s tenure in office came with crisis — such as the time explosions from over-pressurized natural gas lines rattled about 40 homes in 2018 — the governor counted investments in housing and deepwater offshore wind power among his accomplishments in the Wednesday letter. Baker took credit as well for paring down income taxes while boosting the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
The “extremely difficult decision” for the two Republicans came after months of discussions with their families, according to their statement.
In the meantime, the state Republican Party has publicly opposed the policies Baker implemented during the pandemic. In October, Jim Lyons, chairman of the commonwealth’s GOP, said Baker’s vaccine mandates for state employees were an “authoritarian ultimatum.”
When Baker said Massachusetts may adopt a digital Covid-19 vaccination passport system used by other states, Geoff Diehl, a Republican running for governor, said Tuesday the proposal was “using the pandemic as a way to restrict individual rights and freedoms.”
Diehl, a former state representative who touts an endorsement from Trump, pointed this week to some early polling that suggested Baker would severely come up short in a Republican primary if the election was between the two candidates.
Beyond the pandemic, in February, Lyons suggested the governor should dismiss his undersecretary for climate change over comments he made about individuals’ emission contributions, pointing to the undersecretary’s background at a “left-leaning” environmental law group and a clerkship with the “historically left-wing” Ninth Circuit.
In the statement, Baker and Polito said their bipartisan approach allowed them to make progress while in office.
“We are determined to continue to put aside the partisan playbook that dominates so much of our political landscape,” they said.
Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Gus Bickford said in a statement that Baker “was pushed out of office” in favor of a GOP candidate with regressive policies and politically extreme views.
“The takeover of the MassGOP by the Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party is complete,” Bickford said, adding that he believes the Democratic Party is poised to fill the office.
Saying Baker’s decision was caused by Trump’s endorsement of Diehl, Lyons said the governor’s decision is “a new page” for the state GOP.
“We look forward to working with President Trump as we continue to rebuild the Massachusetts Republican Party,” Lyons said.
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