Newton Mayor Setti Warren has made calls to Democratic donors, asking for campaign contributions and saying he will challenge Republican Governor Charlie Baker in 2018, two people who spoke with him said.
The move makes Warren the first Democrat across the starting line in the still-nebulous field to chase Baker. It also gives Warren a fund-raising advantage by allowing him to meet the annual state limits of three separate calendar years.
One person who spoke with Warren late Tuesday said he asked for donations between $500 and $1,000 by the end of 2016.
“ ‘I am going to run for governor and I am starting my campaign now’,” said the person Warren called, relaying a private conversation on the condition of anonymity.
A second person who spoke with Warren confirmed a similar conversation.
Despite announcing earlier this month that he would not seek another term, Warren is holding a Dec. 6 fund-raiser at the Boston law firm Foley Hoag, according to an invitation obtained by the Globe. While the invitation does not specify the purpose of the donations, Warren’s appeal Tuesday night was expressly to fund a challenge to Baker, said the person who spoke with him.
Warren has also hired longtime Democratic organizer John Walsh, a top adviser to former governor Deval Patrick and onetime state party chair, in a move first reported by Politico.
All of those moves signaled a likely 2018 bid, but the round of calls specifically asking for financial assistance provided the most concrete evidence yet.
Walsh declined comment Tuesday when asked about Warren’s phone calls.
Massachusetts Democrats, already somewhat adrift after Baker beat then-attorney general Martha Coakley in 2014, have been trying to refocus in the wake of this year’s presidential election. The party elected a new chairman, long-time Democratic consultant Gus Bickford, last week.
Bickford has made clear he does not have a preferred candidate to take on Baker.
Newton’s first African American mayor, Warren first won the office in 2009. An Iraq War veteran and former aide to then-US senator John F. Kerry, Warren as mayor won praise from residents and fiscal watchdogs for putting the city on a financially sustainable course.
He ran briefly in 2011 for the US Senate before bowing out in the primary to Elizabeth Warren, who beat then-US senator Scott Brown in 2012.
Warren appeared in February at the same Washington D.C. hotel where the National Governors Association had gathered, a prime fund-raising and networking opportunity. He told a reporter he was there to meet with other mayors.