Governor Baker flags housing as “highest priority”

Boston Statehouse

Gov. Charlie Baker speaks Wednesday at a vaccination site at the Shaw’s Center in Brockton. (Alyssa Stone/Brockton Enterprise/Pool)

BOSTON (SHNS) – His mind is apparently not made up about reelection next year, but Gov. Charlie Baker this weekend ticked off a handful of priorities that he could see topping a list of goals for a third term, suggested he’s not burned out from the job and said he hopes the Republican Governors Association would support his campaign. That is, if he decides to run again.

Baker joined WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller for an interview that aired Sunday and talked about some of the things that could shape Republican gubernatorial primary and general election contests that may unfold over the next 14 months. Baker maintained that he’s not focused on 2022 and qualified his remarks in basically every case. Still, he provided an early sketch of a campaign that could be to come.

“I think certainly the housing crisis would have to be right near the top of the list,” Baker said when Keller asked what his goals for a third term would be if he opts to run. The governor added, “You talk to anybody who’s a working person about what the hardest and most difficult part about living in the commonwealth is and almost all of them will talk about how expensive it is to live here. The average price of a house in Massachusetts is now around $500,000, right. Rentals in many cases for one bedrooms are somewhere in the vicinity of $1,500 to two grand in many parts of Massachusetts. This is, in some ways, an existential challenge for us … We’re going to drive a lot of what our next generation is all about out of here. I happen to think that probably should be and would be our highest priority.”

The governor told Keller he’s “very excited” about the chance to put about $5 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to use in Massachusetts and pushed back when Keller asked if the stress of the last year and a half has him feeling “burned out” from the job of governor.

“Actually, I have been incredibly blessed to be governor of a state with people who really tried all the way through the pandemic to do the right thing. And I’ve constantly been amazed by the kindness and the generosity and the resilience of the people in Massachusetts have shown,” he said. Baker added, “I’m very excited about this opportunity to put the $5 billion-plus that we’ve received in federal money to work to do some very transformational, important things around infrastructure, around housing, around job creation and economic development.”

When Keller asked if a recent meeting with the Republican Governors Association included a promise of support from the organization, Baker said only that he enjoys the diversity of opinions within the group and that “I would certainly hope that if Lieutenant Governor [Karyn] Polito and I were to run again, that they would support our efforts.”

But when it came to whether another Republican — former President Donald Trump — might support former state Rep. Geoff Diehl over Baker in a 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary, Baker said a campaign isn’t on his mind.

“Look, that’s so far down the road it’s not even on my radar at this point in time,” he said. “When I think about 2022, at this point my primary thoughts are about some of the stuff you and I talked about — putting the federal money to work in a way that can do good things for the people of Massachusetts, and continuing to be a fiscally disciplined state that generates a surplus and doesn’t spend more than it brings in, which is what we’ve been doing, and getting as many of those people are still on the sidelines back to work.”

He added, “There’ll be plenty of opportunities to talk about campaign 2022 if it becomes something that the lieutenant governor and I are part of. But no, I’m not focused on that stuff at this point.”

Polito is seen as a potential gubernatorial candidate should Baker decide that three campaigns (2010, 2014 and 2018) for the corner office are enough. But twice during the interview with Keller, he suggested the decision about 2022 was a joint one.

As the interview wrapped up, Keller asked if Polito is “ready to be a successful candidate for governor.”

Baker responded by touting her work on the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan and her close relationships and partnerships with municipal officials, and saying she is a valuable partner and ally.

“She would be a terrific statewide candidate, absolutely,” Baker said.

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