Jay Gonzalez, a Democrat from Newton and a former state budget chief, has announced his candidacy for governor.
Gonzalez, 46, becomes the first person to challenge Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who is in his first term. The election is still 21 months away.
In a statement Monday announcing his candidacy, Gonzalez promised to focus his leadership by fighting President Donald Trump’s policies, which he said threaten Massachusetts and American values.
In criticizing Baker, Gonzalez called him “a status quo, wait and see governor. It’s not good enough. Now more than ever, we need a governor who is going to stand up for every single person and make it crystal clear that hate and discrimination will not be tolerated.”
Gonzalez, who is married and has two daughters, also prioritized schools and public safety, noting both were under threat from Trump.
Baker, meanwhile, has not yet confirmed he will seek a second term in 2018, but he is expected to run again.
Baker enjoyed a months-long stint as the most popular governor in the nation after taking office in 2015 with approval ratings hovering around 70 percent. In September, he bumped down to third-most popular. His approval rating has dropped a bit more, to 59 percent, according to State House News Service.
Gonzalez is taking that dip in popularity as a sign for him to step in, especially in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
He was secretary for administration and finance under former Gov. Deval Patrick, who decided not to run for a third term in 2014. While working for Patrick, he managed the state budget during the recession, eventually leaving the administration in 2013 to take over as CEO for CeltiCare, which provides health insurance coverage for low-income Massachusetts residents.
“Now more than ever, we need a governor who is going to stand up and fight for our values and fight to move us forward. I’ll be that governor,” he said in his statement.
Gonzalez faces an uphill battle. Baker has more than $4.7 million in his campaign war chest, campaign finance data showed.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren is considering a run for governor but has not announced his intentions yet.