Former state senator Ben Downing exits governor’s race 

  • Ben Downing COURTESY PHOTO

  • Former Massachusetts state Sen. Ben Downing speaks while standing on a footbridge at Constitution Beach, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in East Boston. On Monday, Downing became the first Democrat to formally announce a run for Massachusetts governor in 2022. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

Staff Writer
Published: 12/28/2021 2:51:50 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Former state senator Ben Downing has called off his campaign for governor, citing a lack of funds.

“Unfortunately, we simply do not have the financial resources to continue,” said Downing, in a statement Tuesday. “While it’s painful to admit, that reality has brought this chapter to a close.”

Downing, who grew up in Pittsfield, represented much of western Massachusetts in the state Senate from 2007 to 2017. He now lives in East Boston with his wife and two sons.

In announcing his departure from the race, Downing highlighted the themes of his campaign and said its work is not done.

“Massachusetts is prosperous, but we must ask ‘for whom?’ and reckon with the reality that the answer is for far too few. Massachusetts is innovative, but we must ask ‘to what end?’ and reckon with the fact that we are falling far short on the defining issues of this generation—most notably the climate crisis,” Downing wrote.

“We have everything we need to solve the big problems facing us,” he continued. “It is not a single political party that stands in the way, but a culture of complacency that too often prioritizes the comfort of those in power over addressing the challenges of those in need.”

Harvard Professor Danielle Allen, Shrewsbury businessman Orlando Silva and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz remain in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, while former state Rep. Geoff Diehl is running for the Republican nomination.

Attorney General Maura Healey has not yet announced a decision on whether she will seek the Democratic nomination for governor, nor has United States Secretary of Labor and former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is not running for re-election next year.

In an interview, Downing said that he anticipated that candidates with big campaign war chests would be getting into the race on the Democratic side and that this contributed to his decision to end his campaign.

“The path to victory changed with Governor Baker’s exit,” he said.

He said he hadn’t heard whether Healey, Walsh or any other candidates with strong financial backing were entering the race at the time he made his announcement.

Allen paid tribute to Downing in a statement she released in response to his exit from the race.

“I thank Ben for his extraordinary leadership to build change in our Commonwealth — from carrying the message that the status quo is not an option, to fighting tirelessly to address the climate crisis, to working to ensure Western Mass residents have a strong voice in our state government,” Allen stated. “While Ben is leaving the governor’s race, I know he will keep fighting on behalf of Massachusetts families as he always has, and I look forward to working alongside him to create the transformation our state deserves.”

Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, endorsed Downing, and is running for the state Senate seat Downing left. He said that Downing’s exit is disappointing and that he would have been supportive of the western part of the state if he’d been elected.

“He was really good on the environment,” Mark said. “I think he was definitely the best candidate on the environment so far.”

Mark also said that having a Democrat in the governor’s mansion would be good for western Massachusetts.

“People tend to reward their base,” he said.

Downing said he didn’t know if or who he would be endorsing for governor. However, he said that he hopes the next governor can find a way to end “the culture of complacency on Beacon Hill.”

Downing also said that he will be weighing what to do going forward in either the public or private sector.

“I’ll be looking for a way to serve,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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