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Baker, Polito say commitment to Massachusetts’ pandemic response led to decision to not seek third term

Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito answered questions this afternoon about their joint decision to not seek a third four-year term in 2022.

Baker and Polito were first elected in 2014, and swept into their second term with almost 65% of the vote four years later.

At a Boston press conference, Polito framed the move as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having thought about this a lot, we thought about the year and a half that we've lived through," she said. "Thinking about the year ahead, and we very much desire to focus our time and our energy on the communities and the people and the economic recovery that the state needs and deserves, rather than campaigning and all of the difficulty that comes with a task like that having done this several times ourselves. It's very important for the people of this commonwealth to get our full attention, our energy, and our team's attention.”

“There is a ton of work that's left to be done as we come out of this pandemic, to rebuild, recreate, reimagine many of the things that were busted during the course of all this," said Baker. "And we believe it's most important that we spend the next year focusing on that and not focusing on, let's call it the discourse – and that's probably an insult to the word discourse – that comes with political campaigning.”

Baker said the administration’s priority now is to focus on effectively using the almost $9 billion Massachusetts received in American Rescue Plan Act funding.

“For all of us, especially as we think about the next year, to the extent I'm going to be present, I want to be present thinking about how we're going to make sure kids get the in person education that they need, how we make sure we continue to help our communities find their way back from this pandemic, and how we're going make it possible for the many people in Massachusetts whose jobs disappeared with the pandemic and have never really come back find the credentials and skills they need to be successful going forward," said Baker. "I don't want it to be spent thinking about a whole bunch of other things.”

Baker was asked if the state’s unwritten rule about governors not seeking a third term factored into their decision to step down.

“No," said the governor. "I mean, we talked pretty seriously about this and we we gave it a lot of attention and the fact that it seems for the most part to be one or two wasn’t really – I mean, the pandemic creates a whole new dynamic, at least I think, in this particular context for making that decision. And in our, from our point of view, the way the pandemic- I had a bunch of people say to me, Well, the reason you should run for a third term is because pandemic. I actually think just the opposite, which is why we're here today with the decision that we've made. We believe the pandemic means we really ought to just focus on the work and get it done. There should be an urgency associated with what needs to happen here in Massachusetts.”

Baker denied claims by Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons that he had been shaken by former President Trump’s October endorsement of gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl.

“Every race I've ever entered, I entered because I believed I would be the best person to do the job and had the best plan on how to get it done," said Baker. "No, not shaken. And I'm really looking forward to focusing on the work."

A centrist, the governor has openly criticized Trump – further distancing himself from a state party that has continued to embrace the former president.

“I actually think our brand of politics and our approach to politics and both the way we operate and how we work with people and how we choose to focus on issues over personalities and motive stand apart from a lot of the bipartisan noise that's created in politics generally these days and amplified by social media platforms, and all sorts of other people who are jockeying for attention," said Baker. "The fact that it exists, and I've said this before, and so has the lieutenant governor, I believe, is to the detriment of what we seek to achieve here. And I would argue that the way we've operated has a lot to do with why the voters of Massachusetts think we've done a really good job for seven years.”

Baker did not answer a question about whether he’ll endorse Diehl or another Republican in the 2022 election. Neither the governor nor Polito responded to a question about their future plans after leaving office, but Baker laughingly ruled out a run for president.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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