The ‘question’ keeps coming to Baker

Will he seek a third term or is it time to step aside?

THE QUESTION started being posed the day after Gov. Charlie Baker won a second term in office in 2018:  Would he seek a third term?

At the time, Baker dismissed the question as premature, but it didn’t go away. Lately, it’s being asked more and more, nearly once a week. With one election season ending today, the race for next November is officially getting underway, and everyone wants to know whether Baker is running. 

Baker’s standard response is that he and his family are trying to reach a decision and he’ll let voters know when he knows. Last week, in an interview on Boston Public Radio with Jim Braude, the governor said the decision was “very complicated” but declined to go into any detail. On Monday, the Boston Globe’s Matt Stout prodded Baker again, reminding him that four years ago at about this same time he announced a run for a second term. Baker promised a decision soon, but suggested there was no rush.

“I don’t understand why you’re in such a big hurry for me to make a decision about this,” Baker said. “The people of Massachusetts have had a good chance to take a good look at both the lieutenant governor and myself over the course of the previous seven years. And if we believe we can continue to do the work to make this state better and stronger as we work our way out of this recovery in a post-COVID-19 world, I’m sure they’ll be interested in hearing what we have to say, but I don’t feel any pressure coming from them.” 

Voters may not be pressuring the governor to make up his mind, but there’s no question Baker’s decision on whether to seek a third term will dramatically impact the state’s political landscape no matter what he decides. 

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has been waiting her turn to run for governor for seven years. Can she wait another four years? 

Attorney General Maura Healey wants to run for governor, but so far she seems disinclined to give up her current job and throw her hat in the ring unless the popular Baker is not vying for the job. 

The tea leaves on Baker are hard to read. Baker has little left to prove politically, but occasionally he talks as if he yearns for a period of governing stability after two terms of upheaval that started with snowmageddon in 2015 followed by a drought, cyclones, gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, and, since early last year, COVID.  

The governor stopped raising campaign cash for a period of time, but now he’s back at it again. On Monday, he delighted in telling reporters about the heavy turnout for Halloween at his house in Swampscott. His body language doesn’t feel like someone wrapping things up. 

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Most insiders believe the governor’s wife, Lauren Baker, is key. When people urge Baker to run for president, he often says talk to his wife. She took an active role in the races he won in 2014 and again in 2018, but she may be tiring of the protesters outside their house in Swampscott and think it’s time to start the next stage of their life.  

“We’ll get back to you guys soon on this, I promise,” Baker said on Monday.