Baker’s exit ends era, opens doors

It’s the news all of the Massachusetts political world has waited for, and now that it’s here, it will set off a flurry of activity on the state’s political landscape. 

Gov. Charlie Baker got the ball rolling himself on Monday, when he said in a radio interview that he was “pretty close” to announcing a decision about whether he’ll seek a third term next year. On Tuesday evening, former Boston Globe reporter Frank Phillips, who seems to pop out of his retirement leisure every six months or so to tweet a big scoop, said the announcement would come today – and added, “Rumors swirl he won’t go for a third term.” 

Today they are more than rumors, as Baker is calling “allies” this morning to let them know of his pending announcement that he won’t run for reelection next year. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito wrote in a joint letter to supporters that with the state focused on COVID recovery, “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.” They said they also wanted to spend more time with their families. 

Speculation has been building for months over whether Baker would run again. No Massachusetts governor has ever served three straight four-year terms — Michael Dukakis served three terms, but not consecutively.  

The moderate Republican has been a dominant force in state politics, defying the state’s strong blue streak to remain one of the most popular governors in the country throughout the seven years in office that he’s served so far. His record of accomplishments – and shortcomings – will get plenty of attention now that he seems prepared to call a wrap to his political career. But the decision means the focus will now quickly turn to other political players and what the announcement means for them. 

While many had assumed that a Baker exit would mean his loyal lieutenant governor would look to carry the torch of more moderate Republicanism against Trump-backed former state representative Geoff Diehl, who is already seeking the GOP nomination, that is not to be. The joint statement from Baker and Polito said she also will not be running for office next year. 

Polito’s decision will only intensify questions about the future of the Massachusetts Republican Party, which has seen its already thin ranks in the Legislature shrink even more under the leadership of controversial party chairman Jim Lyons, a hard-right Trump acolyte.

 On the Democratic side, the huge question now will be whether Attorney General Maura Healey enters the race for governor. She has held off on any announcement so far. The conventional thinking was that Healey was waiting to hear what Baker would do, and that she would probably not run against him but very likely would jump in if he were not running. Even if that is the exact behind-the-scenes calculus and she’s been patiently waiting for word from Baker, Healey may hold off making an announcement right away to avoid the perception that she was, well, patiently waiting for word from Baker. 

Three Democrats are already in the gubernatorial race – state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, former state senator Ben Downing, and Harvard professor Danielle Allen – though none have the statewide recognition and campaign war chest of Healey. 

Meanwhile, if Healey does take the plunge, it will open up the race for attorney general. Already eyeing a Democratic primary run for AG are Quentin Palfrey, who was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, and prominent labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, who entered the Democratic primary against US Sen. Ed Markey last year, but then withdrew after then-Rep. Joe Kennedy also entered the race. 

Let the domino falling begin. 

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Power politics: Massachusetts officials are counting on a Maine court to overturn a law approved by 59 percent of Maine voters and allow construction to continue on a power line to carry hydroelectricity from Quebec. The law in this case may be on Massachusetts’ side, but forcing a power line on a state that doesn’t want it could lead to bad blood bvetween thge two states. Read more

No mandate: Gov. Charlie Baker clarifies his stance on vaccine QR codes, saying he backs their development but does not support a statewide vaccine passport mandate. Read more.

ARPA spending deal: House and Senate negotiators reach a deal on a compromise ARPA spending bill. No details were released on the $4 billion plan, but legislative leaders, unable to get the job done before the holiday recess, now hope to pass the final measure during informal sessions when a lone legislator can easily block action. Read more.

OPINION

Time running short: Marc Draisen, the executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, says Massachusetts desperately needs a Plan B for the Transportation Climate Initiative. We have wasted the last 30 years doing far too little, he says. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

A state employee tasked with processing requests for vaccine exemptions – the Department of Development Services’s director of diversity – no longer works for DDS, and workers told MassLive that she and others were fired for approving too many exemptions. (MassLive)

Around 200 Department of Correction prison guards are suspended for refusing to comply with the state’s COVID vaccine mandate. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

While eviction filings are down in Worcester County, the need for housing-related services is up. (Telegram & Gazette)

Boston homeowners could see property tax bills rise amid a hot housing market and the chill the pandemic has put on commercial real estate. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Big disparities are emerging in childhood COVID vaccination rates in the state, with low-income communities lagging badly in having young people immunized. (Boston Globe

New York City opens the nation’s first government-approved supervised drug injection site. (NPR)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a Mississippi case that could determine the fate of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (Washington Post

ELECTIONS

Topsfield Democrat Jamie Belsito wins Tuesday’s special election for the 4th Essex House seat formerly held by Republican Rep. Brad Hill. (Salem News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Auto dealer and whistleblower David Rosenberg agrees to a $30 million settlement with Prime Automotive Group. (Cape Cod Times)

A 28-year-old Bitcoin tycoon has purchased half of the full-service eating establishments in Lenox. (Berkshire Eagle)

A Wayland construction company, its owner, and an employee have been indicted on perjury charges for allegedly lying on safety forms required in Boston, where two company workers were killed in an accident. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

The assistant principal at Madison Park High School in Boston is fired and his case is referred to police. (GBH)

ARTS/CULTURE

The entire administrative staff of the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire quits in protest over ownership’s ties to an allegedly alt-right group called the Unbearables. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

US Reps. Stephen Lynch and Ayanna Pressley secure $15 million for an overhaul of Blue Hill Avenue. (Dorchester Reporter)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

State environmental officials are considering whether to restrict the use of glyphosate, a herbicide linked to cancer. (Salem News)

MEDIA

CNN suspends Chris Cuomo indefinitely for his role in his brother’s defense. (NPR)