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'Surprised' and 'saddened': Cape officials react to news Baker won't run for governor again

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Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision not to run for re-election took some local officials by surprise.

Two state representatives — Timothy Whelan, a Brewster Republican, and Sarah Peake, a Provincetown Democrat — told CAI they were expecting Baker to seek the office again.

“It catches a lot of us by surprise,” Whelan said.

“Quite honestly, I thought that he would be running for re-election,” Peake said. “But I can certainly understand his decision, and I wish him the best as he goes forward, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito as well.”

Polito indicated she would not run, leaving the race wide open.

The only Republican in the race so far is former state representative Geoff Diehl, who’s been endorsed by former president Donald Trump. Diehl ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018.

Whelan said he anticipates more Republicans will jump in.

“The news is all so new,” he said. “Right now, it's kind of hard to figure out what direction we're going to go.”

Republicans can still do well, said Whelan, who is running for sheriff of Barnstable County. That’s in spite of a well-known divide between Baker-style Republicans and the more conservative leadership of the state GOP.

“When I first showed interest in running for office … I was advised back then that I was best positioned if I did not rely on the state party, on Mass GOP, for anything,” Whelan said. “And that's the way I've run every one of my campaigns going forward.”

Massachusetts Democrats have their own conflict between the progressive and more mainstream wings of the party, he said.

State Rep. Steven Xiarhos, a Barnstable Republican, said he was saddened by the news that Baker won’t run again and honored to have served with him.

On the Democratic side, political observers have long expected that Attorney General Maura Healey might run, but she has not made a public announcement.

Peake said she plans to back Healey if she runs.

“I'm going to be all in with her. I think she would make an excellent governor,” she said.

Three other Democrats have already thrown their hats in the ring: Danielle Allen, a Harvard professor of political theory; state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz; and former state senator Ben Downing.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.