IN AND OUT Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito blew the 2022 governors race wide open yesterday when they announced they wouldnt seek reelection next year. And Polito, considered Bakers heir apparent, wont run for governor in his place.

The second-term Republicans said campaigning and dealing with the political grudge matches with Democratic rivals, and those within their own party would be a distraction from managing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The ripple effects were immediate. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh joined state Attorney General Maura Healey atop the list of possible Democratic contenders in a field that already includes three candidates. MassDems Chair Gus Bickford told me that “not having to run against an incumbent makes it a really strong likelihood that a Democrat will win.

Some Republicans are scrambling to find another moderate standard-bearer, former MassGOP Chair Jennifer Nassour, a Baker ally, told me. Former Republican Lt. Gov. Jane Swift said the party has had significant success drawing on nontraditional candidates who represent the moderate, and dominant, majority of both the party and center-right independents. I believe someone will emerge.

Heres where the field stands:

WHOS IN Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl is the sole major candidate on the Republican side. The major Democratic contenders

are state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, former state Sen. Ben Downing and Harvard professor Danielle Allen, who leads the trio in fundraising.

UNDER CONSIDERATION Healey told Bloomberg TV

that her decision is coming soon. The Democratic Governors Association has spoken to Healey, the three Democrats already in the race and other potential candidates. Healeys also spoken to potential staff and has $3.3 million in the bank to start.

Walsh has even more, $5.1 million, and is weighing whether to return home to run

, per two sources with knowledge of his deliberations. His chief of staff, former congressional hopeful Dan Koh, is seriously considering a bid for lieutenant governor, per a source familiar with his thinking, setting up the possibility of a Walsh-Koh ticket.

Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George is also considering a run for governor, the Dorchester Reporter first reported

. Her former rival, Mayor

Michelle Wu, is not.

Republican Taunton Mayor Shaunna OConnell, a former state representative, is also looking at the seat, a spokesperson said.

NOTABLE FLOATABLES Republican Andrew Lelling, a former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, for governor. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan for attorney general if theres an open seat. State Sen. Eric Lesser for either attorney general or lieutenant governor. And Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is getting calls about a potential gubernatorial bid, per a source close to her. Ryan, Lesser and Driscoll are all Democrats.

WHOS OUT A source close to former Rep. Joe Kennedy III says hes not running for either governor or attorney general. Former Sen. Mo Cowan isnt running for governor; neither is outgoing Somerville Mayor

Joe Curtatone. Former ambassador and Sen. Scott Brown is also out

, per my colleague Stephanie Murray.

GOOD THURSDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS.Send your tips, scoops and #mapoli campaign announcements to [email protected].

TODAY Baker and Polito participate in the 37th and 38th annual Trooper George L. Hanna Memorial Awards for Bravery at 11 a.m., Mechanics Hall in Worcester. Polito makes a MassWorks grant announcement at 9:30 a.m. in Milbury and 3 p.m. in Walpole. Rep. Richard Neal participates in a virtual Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Forum

at 2 p.m. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu speaks at a series of menorah and Christmas tree lightings including the Boston Common tree lighting at 7 p.m. Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins is the featured speaker at the 7 p.m. Massachusetts Womens Political Caucus 50-year celebration

.

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NOT FEELING ’22

Gov. Charlie Baker tells reporters he won’t seek reelection in 2022. | Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via AP

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won’t seek reelection, by Lisa Kashinsky, POLITICO: Those close to Baker, who turned 65 last month, had recently described a two-term governor torn over whether to seek what in Massachusetts would be an unprecedented third consecutive term. He kept operatives, donors and observers guessing late into the year even as he ramped up fundraising throughout the fall after pausing those activities for most of the pandemic, holding an event at a Boston restaurant just last week. The governor was actively debating his next move heading into Thanksgiving and huddled with family over the holiday before communicating his decision to allies shortly after, according to a person familiar with his conversations.

Charlie Baker dismisses notion that he was shaken by Trump-endorsed primary challenger, by Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com: MassDems Chair Gus Bickford said Baker was effectively pushed out of office by his own party. Meanwhile, MassGOP Chair Jim Lyons a conservative Trump supporter who has frequently clashed with Baker said it was clear that the governor was shaken by Trumps endorsement of former state representative Geoff Diehl. Trump himself even weighed in Wednesday afternoon, asserting that Bakers decision was because he didnt get the former presidents endorsement and was thus incapable of getting the Republican nomination. Baker says that couldnt be further from the truth.

WCVBs Sharman Sacchetti on Bakers future plans: Baker laughed out loud when asked if he ruled out running for higher office or even president. Yeah, he said, reaffirming he was not running for president.

The Boston Globes Emma Platoff and Matt Stout on Bakers gubernatorial legacy: Baker allies frame his tenure as a success that would have earned him another term. They praise him for his responsiveness to local needs and willingness to compromise with Democrats, who dominate the Legislature. Critics cast Baker as an incrementalist who has lacked a vision equal to the gnawing problems in the state, a plodding bureaucrat unwilling to harness Massachusetts vast resources and, worst of all, a leader whose administrations management failures have led to tragedy. They cite the Holyoke Soldiers Home

Karyn Polito: From Shrewsbury town meeting member to lieutenant governor, by Marco Cartolano, Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Polito’s commitment and attentiveness to the area as well as her cooperative nature was praised by area state legislators and local officials Wednesday.

As Baker and Polito exit, Western Mass. supporters praise pragmatism, by Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican: Businessman Peter A. Picknelly, a supporter Gov. Charlie Baker, sounded a bit surprised Wednesday after the governor and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced neither would run for the corner office in 2022. I think this is a very last minute decision. I think he really wrestled with it, said Picknelly, chairman and CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines and co-owner of the Student Prince restaurant [where he had been co-organizing a fundraiser for Baker later this month].

FEELING ’22

Marty Walsh is weighing a run for Massachusetts governor, by Alex Thompson, Eleanor Mueller, Lisa Kashinsky and Stephanie Murray, POLITICO: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is weighing whether to return home to Massachusetts and run for governor next year, according to two sources with knowledge of his deliberations. A number of Democrats have called Walsh about the race after Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Wednesday that he was declining to run for a third term. Allies of the former Boston mayor are also telling fellow Massachusetts Democrats that he is considering running, according to two additional sources. The governor told reporters Wednesday that he spoke with Walsh ahead of his announcement. It was basically just a conversation to give him a heads up if he hadnt heard about it [already], he said. There was no conversation about any of that.”

Maura Healey? Martin Walsh? With Baker out, who might run for governor of Massachusetts? by Matt Stout and Emma Platoff, Boston Globe: Another name that surfaced was Joshua Kraft, son of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the president of Kraft Family Philanthropies. Kraft said Wednesday that he is not considering a bid for governor. Bob Rivers, the chairman and CEO of Eastern Bank, said with a laugh, Oh God no. My course is set for a while, when asked Wednesday if hes looking at the race.

After Baker’s exit, Democrats running for governor see an easier path, by Mike Deehan, GBH News: With Baker and Polito out of the race, Democrats stand a much better chance of controlling each branch of Massachusetts government after 2022 with no incumbent moderate Republicans in their way.

A hole in the middle: With Baker out, where do moderates go? by Michael Jonas and Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine: For Democrats, Bakers exit could create a big opportunity among moderate voters whowould otherwise have supported the Republican incumbents reelection. It was hard to not see the first effort at that in a statement Healey issued on Wednesday after news of Bakers decision. She called him a valued partner who has sought to find common ground with others in a politically divisive period.

THE LATEST NUMBERS

Massachusetts coronavirus cases surge 4,838, the highest daily count since January, by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: The Department of Public Healths report of 4,838 infections is the most in one day since Jan. 22s count of 4,935 cases when the general population had not been vaccinated.

DATELINE BEACON HILL

Deadline Whittles Ballot Question Field to Three Campaigns, by Chris Lisinski, State House News Service (paywall): A Republican-backed proposal to implement voter identification requirements will not appear on the ballot in 2022 after the effort’s supporters and campaigns behind 11 other initiative petitions failed to gather enough signatures by a Wednesday deadline. Collecting the required 80,239 voter signatures proved an insurmountable hurdle for all but three campaigns, eliminating from contention potential ballot questions that would have legalized the sale of consumer fireworks, reversed the state’s decades-long ban on happy hour, and imposed new restrictions on hospital CEO compensation. Proposals to update alcohol licensing limits, rewrite worker status and benefits for app-based drivers, and impose spending limits on dental insurers remain on track to make next year’s ballot

Votes to Finalize ARPA and Surplus Spending Planned This Week, by Katie Lannan, State House News Service (paywall): In a joint statement, Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka said the House will take up the bill Thursday, with the Senate planning to follow suit Friday. In keeping with a House-Senate agreement announced before either branch voted on the legislation, the final bill (H 4269) allocates $500 million toward payments, in an amount ranging from $500 to $2,000, for lower-income essential workers who stayed on the job in-person during the COVID-19 state of emergency, and another $500 million to shore up the unemployment insurance trust fund. The 163-page bill, packed with local earmarks, also features major health-related investments…”

COVID-19 Remembrance Day effort picking up steam on Beacon Hill, by Sarah Betancourt, GBH News: The proposed day, on the first Monday of March, aims to memorialize those who lost their lives, to heed the suffering of COVID-19 survivors and to recognize the efforts of volunteers and essential workers. The bill is backed in Massachusetts by Reps. Natalie M. Blais (D-Sunderland) and Mindy Domb (D-Amherst), who filed the legislation on Beacon Hill in September.

VAX-ACHUSETTS

COVID infections in Mass. reach highest level in months, while first Omicron case in US is identified, by Kay Lazar and Felice J. Freyer, Boston Globe: Massachusetts on Wednesday reported striking increases in COVID infections and hospitalizations, with the state reporting that 957 people were hospitalized with the virus, the highest number since mid-February. As the Delta variant continued to sicken thousands, the United States on Wednesday recorded its first confirmed case of the Omicron strain, as scientists around the world raced to understand whether the mutated version of the coronavirus is more dangerous and spreads more quickly.

“The demand for COVID-19 vaccine exceeds supply again,” by Cynthia McCormick, Cape Cod Times: “Once again, demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is outstripping the local supply. Barnstable County officials announced Wednesday that the weekly adult and pediatric vaccine clinics the county is hosting Thursday and Dec. 9 are completely full.”

FROM THE HUB

Boston appeals judges decision overturning citywide eviction moratorium, by Danny McDonald, Boston Globe: The City of Boston on Wednesday appealed a judges decision knocking down a local eviction moratorium, saying that opening the floodgates to evictions amid the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would be disastrous.

Ed Flynn claims votes for Boston City Council presidency, by Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News: Ed Flynn, U.S. Navy vet, three-term district councilor from South Boston and son of former Mayor Ray Flynn, announced Wednesday he has enough support from colleagues to claim the City Council presidency when the new term begins in January. Multiple sources told GBH News that Flynn clinched the necessary votes after the two other councilors vying for the spot Ricardo Arroyo and Kenzie Bok each unsuccessfully tried to form coalitions with the optics of the councils racial and ethnic makeup driving their bids for the spot.

Michelle Wu revives Mass and Cass Roundhouse homeless hotel plans, frustrated advocates say, by Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald: The Methadone Mile Roundhouse controversy has come back around, as vexed advocates say Mayor Michelle Wu has told them that the vacant Mass and Cass hotel is once again on the table for housing the nearby homeless.

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES

City Council signs off on Wu’s $8M fare-free bus proposal, by Gintautas Dumcius, Dorchester Reporter: Mayor Michelle Wus $8 million fare-free bus proposal, which targets three bus lines as part of a two-year pilot, on Wednesday cleared the City Council on a 12-1 vote. Dorchester Councillor Frank Baker was the lone no vote. The $8 million price tag, paid for through one-time federal money, came about through ridership estimates.

TODAY’S SPECIAL (ELECTION)

ENDORSEMENT ALERT: Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorsed Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards in her state Senate bid. Lydia Edwards has been a powerhouse for change throughout her career fighting for affordable housing, generational opportunity, and environmental justice, Warren said in a statement.

DATELINE D.C.

Justices signal willingness to pare back abortion rights, by Alice Miranda Ollstein and Josh Gerstein, POLITICO: The Supreme Courts liberal and conservative justices clashed Wednesday during arguments over Mississippis 15-week abortion ban, with each member of the six-justice conservative supermajority expressing openness to significantly paring back or completely overturning abortion rights protections guaranteed under Roe vs. Wade.

WATCH: Sen.

Elizabeth Warren calls to abolish the filibuster

to pass the Womens Health Protection Act in the Senate on MSNBCs The Last Word with Lawrence ODonnell following the U.S. Supreme Courts oral arguments over the Mississippi abortion law. Rep. Ayanna Pressley on The Reidout

and Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark on the House floor

also called to codify Roe v. Wade.

FROM THE 413

UMass Amherst to require COVID booster shots for students this spring, by Will Katcher, MassLive: Students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot ahead of the spring semester, or obtain a medical or religious exemption, the school said Wednesday.

We stand united: Springfield joins global accord to end HIV epidemic by 2030, by Peter Goonan, Springfield Republican: Springfield formally joined a global effort to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 through expanded outreach and advocacy, treatment, social transformation and expanded resources.

THE LOCAL ANGLE

Fired Massachusetts teacher sues district after she was axed over TikTok videos, by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: A fired Massachusetts teacher is suing the district officials who sent her packing for her TikTok videos that slammed critical race theory and other contentious issues. Kari MacRae, who earlier this school year was hired to teach math and business at Hanover High School, was canned after her social media videos surfaced. MacRae, a Bourne School Committee member, is also running for state Senate

, per the Bourne Enterprises Sam Drysdale.

Middlesex DAs office reports 39% spike in hate-related incidents in one month, by Sarah Betancourt, GBH News: In the past month, reports of hate-related incidents in Middlesex County increased 39% over the total received in the six months prior, according to the county district attorney’s office.

MetroWest Medical Center inks contract with union as St. Vincent strike continues, by Abby Patkin, MetroWest Daily News: Tenet Healthcare announced Wednesday that it has reached a collective bargaining agreement at MetroWest Medical Center Leonard Morse Hospital, Tenet’s third since nurses at the affiliated St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester went on strike in March.

Harvard poll: 52% of young Americans think democracy is in trouble or failing, by Amy Sokolow, Boston Herald: In the eyes of young Americans, President Bidens approval rating is taking a nosedive. Thats according to a new Harvard poll, that adds young would-be voters also have a sinking opinion of American democracy.

SPOTTED at state Rep. Tim Whelans Barnstable County sheriff campaign kickoff fundraiser Tuesday: Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis and retiring Barnstable County Sheriff Jim Cummings (h/t Judy Crocker).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to retired Associate Justice Barbara A. Lenk and Morgan Hughes.

REWIND I joined Shannon Jenkins of UMass Dartmouth and GBH’s Adam Reilly on GBH’s “Greater Boston” to discuss the governor’s race.

NEW HORSE RACE ALERT: BAKER’S OUT, ON TO 2022 Hosts Jennifer Smith, Steve Koczela and Lisa Kashinsky break down Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision not to seek reelection. ER doctor and state Rep. Jon Santiago discusses the omicron variant. Subscribe and listen on iTunes

and Sound Cloud

.

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