Longtime environmentalist and entrepreneur Robert K. Massie has jumped into the Democratic gubernatorial primary, saying his résumé makes him uniquely qualified to take on Republican Governor Charlie Baker next year.
The move makes him the third Democrat to start raising money toward a bid.
Massie left his job leading a climate preparedness, research, and development lab at the University of Massachusetts Boston late last month, has opened a fund-raising committee, and plans an official launch in May, he said. He has also hired a top national Democratic consultant as an adviser.
“I’ve formed a committee, I’m ready to go,” Massie said.
The Somerville resident secured the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor in 1994, running unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket with Mark Roosevelt. He also ran briefly for the US Senate in 2011, but dropped out after eventual victor Elizabeth Warren entered the race.
Born with hemophilia, Massie contracted HIV and later hepatitis C as a result of flawed blood treatments, eventually undergoing a successful liver transplant. The experience, he said, provided “a major backbone of my passion and contributes to the energy and direction of my life and this campaign.”
An ordained Episcopal priest and three times a published author, he won an international award for his book on the United States and South Africa during the apartheid era.
“I really believe I have a strong record of progressive and visionary leadership which is distinctive from the other good people in the race,” Massie, age 60, said Friday.
Former Deval Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez is running, and Newton Mayor Setti Warren has also established a fund-raising committee and hired staff. Former state senator Dan Wolf, founder of CapeAir, has said he is considering a run.
Massie criticized Baker on a range of issues, calling him a timid leader on issues like renewable energy and inequality.
“We have serious structural problems in the state, problems with fairness and inequality, problems with our energy system,” Massie said, adding, “We need to set a broad, forward-looking position with a 10-year horizon and we need real leadership, not incremental baby steps management.”
He said, “Around the world, we are seeing a rapid transformation of economies towards renewable energy. . . . This is simply not happening here; the governor is missing the opportunity to move the state forward.”
In an e-mail, Massie noted that Baker, while frequently polling as the nation’s most popular governor, won by a historically narrow margin despite more than $11 million spent on his behalf by the Republican Governors Association.
Massie wrote that if Baker “wants to get that money again, he is going to have to hold close to the Trump agenda.”
Asked for a response, a Baker political adviser deferred to the state party. GOP spokesman Terry MacCormack wrote in an e-mail, “Governor Baker’s bipartisan leadership that has seen him become the most popular governor in America has delivered results for the people of Massachusetts — including reforming the broken MBTA, historic levels of funding for education, and holding the line on taxes.”
Baker has sought some distance from Trump, but has also said he owes it to the state to work with the administration.
Massie’s résumé is indeed extensive. He graduated from Princeton University and then Yale Divinity School, later working as a chaplain at an Episcopal church in New York City, where he cofounded a homeless shelter, according to a biography he provided.
He also received a doctorate from Harvard Business School, while working as a chaplain at Christ Episcopal Church in Somerville.
He worked as executive director of Ceres, a nonprofit aimed at increasing environmentally friendly investments, and cofounded the Global Reporting Initiative, which sets standards for corporations to “understand their most critical impacts on the environment, society and the economy,” according to Massie’s biography.
In 2008, he founded the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Coalition and helped lead the unsuccessful fight against slot machines and casino gambling in the state.
After receiving a successful liver transplant, Massie became the first Democrat to announce a challenge to then-US Senator Scott Brown. He withdrew in October 2011, after the strength of Warren’s candidacy became clear.
In his e-mail, Massie said, “I am actually in better health than at any time in my life.”
Massie has brought on board Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, who was Howard Dean’s presidential campaign manager in 2004 and worked on Massie’s brief Senate bid, as his national consultant and media strategist.
Trippi said of Massie, “He’s someone who really connects with people at the door, one on ones, but also in town halls and groups. He’s really a solid, bottom-up — I think — fiery kind of candidate.”
Massie said he has been meeting with climate and other progressive groups, including supporters of Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders, who narrowly lost last year’s presidential primary to Hillary Clinton, despite nearly all the state’s Democratic powerbrokers lining up behind Clinton.
Massie said he had attended roughly 30 state party caucuses this year in preparation for his bid.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct the name of Massie’s organization, the Global Reporting Initiative, which was misconstrued in an earlier version.Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.