Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who had resisted his party's pull toward Donald Trump, announced Wednesday that he won't see re-election to a third term.
The decision was first reported by The Boston Globe.
In a statement, Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito cited the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as a factor in not running again in 2022.
"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," Baker and Polito 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 was among a crop of moderate Republican governors from Northeastern states — including Larry Hogan in Maryland, Phil Scott in Vermont and Chris Sununu in New Hampshire — who emerged as critics of Trump's presidency. Baker, for example, said he “blanked” his 2020 ballot rather than vote for the then-president’s bid for a second term.
Trump has endorsed Geoff Diehl, a co-chair of his Massachusetts campaign in 2016 and the losing Senate candidate against Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Warren in 2018, in the 2022 GOP primary for governor.
“Baker is definitely not an American First or Make America Great Again kind of guy,” Trump said in his October endorsement of Diehl, a former state representative.
Trump issued an emailed statement later Wednesday suggesting that his refusal to back Baker is the reason the governor is not seeking a third term.
"He’s been very selfish, and is bad news for the Republican Party — actually, he shouldn’t even be considered a Republican," Trump wrote. "We wish him well!"
Baker told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that Trump's backing of Diehl was not a factor in his decision, The Globe reported.
But his joint statement with Polito nodded to the angry politics that have continued since Trump's presidency ended.
"We are determined to continue to put aside the partisan playbook that dominates so much of our political landscape — to form governing partnerships with our colleagues in local government, the Legislature, and the Congressional delegation," they wrote. "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."
Polls have consistently shown that Baker is popular in Massachusetts, though Democrats have been more favorable to him. One poll last month by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and WCVB in Boston found Baker with a 56 percent approval rating among respondents; 65 percent of Democrats surveyed said they approved compared with 41 percent of Republicans.
Three Democrats have already launched campaigns for governor: state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, former state Sen. Ben Downing and Harvard professor Danielle Allen. The Globe reported Wednesday that Baker’s decision could draw higher-profile candidates, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey into the Democratic primary. Polito, according to the newspaper, confirmed Wednesday that she will not seek the GOP nomination.