Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday he won't seek a third term, creating a wide open contest for governor next year.
In a statement, Baker said it was a difficult decision. But he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have decided not to seek re-election.
"We love the work," he said. "Serving as Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts has been the most challenging and fulfilling jobs we’ve ever had."
Baker, 65, a popular Republican, said that he believes he and Polito can best steer the state over the next year without the distraction of a re-election campaign.
"This next year needs to be about recovery, not about politics," he said.
Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl has already announced he is running as a Republican candidate.
Another prominent Democratic elected official, Attorney General Maura Healey, has yet to announce whether she will enter the race. Healey issued a statement Wednesday thanking Baker for his service, but did not indicate whether she would join the race.
Baker, a moderate Republican, is one of the most popular governors in the country, according to polling. But he could have potentially faced a tough primary battle against Diehl had Baker run for another term. Diehl has been the darling of conservative Bay State Republicans for years and has received the endorsement of former president Trump. And many conservatives have been disenchanted with Baker, particularly during the pandemic.
In addition, no one has ever been elected to three consecutive four-year terms as Massachusetts governor (though Michael Dukakis served three non-consecutive terms).
The job has also likely put a strain on Baker's family. Over the years, critics have shown up at his Swampscott home to protest various policies, including Baker's vaccine and mandates. An intruder even entered Baker's home .
Baker hinted in a recent interview that he will likely keep working for years to come, adding that he has no major hobbies to occupy his time.
Before becoming governor, Baker ran Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a nonprofit health insurer. Baker earned $185,000 salary as governor, but could almost certainly command more than that in the private sector.