by Nicole Silverio ’22
Ben Downing ’03, a former Democratic Massachusetts state senator and Providence College graduate, announced his candidacy last Monday for governor of Massachusetts. If he wins, he will take Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s position. Downing is the first person to announce his candidacy for the 2022 Massachusetts gubernatorial race.
“I’m excited for this. I really am,” Downing told the WBUR News Service. “The opportunities that are in front of Massachusetts, they’re huge, and the only thing that’s missing is leadership.”
Downing has introduced some issues he is particularly passionate about through his announcement. A native of Pittsfield, MA, Downing has expressed his knowledge of and experience with being surrounded by blue collar workers. He has also discussed how he has witnessed attempts to address the contamination of the Housatonic River, saying, “The legacy of industry that created jobs, but sacrificed our environment and public health, then left us to clean up.” In the Massachusetts State Senate, he expressed his passion for clean energy and climate change.
In recent weeks, Downing has slammed Governor Baker with regard to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, saying, “The vaccine rollout has been fumbled pretty badly, and I think there are surprisingly simple solutions to the position that we’ve found ourselves in, and you see that in other states, you see that in some of our own communities.”
Downing revealed that he, along with other Massachusetts Democrats, are interested in creating a mobile vaccine program and providing free COVID-19 testing in all cities.
He has also commented on Baker’s other policy decisions. On Twitter, Downing wrote, “Focus on the record—Being Governor isn’t just about solving single specific issues at agencies. But even by that limited measurement, @MassGovernor is coming up short.”
Downing will join the race without any money from his previous work as a state senator. He closed his campaign account in 2017, donating the remaining $20,000 to PC in order to create a scholarship fund. Downing was inspired to give the College this scholarship fund after he graduated from PC in 2003 with a degree in political science. Downing also earned a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy from Tufts University in Boston, MA.
He has political experience working for state representatives and senators in Washington, D.C. His most notable job was working for former Rep. John Olver. Downing was also elected to the Massachusetts State Senate at 24 years old and served there for a decade, from January 2007 to January 2017.
This week, Downing released his first campaign video addressing his intentions if elected as governor. “We’ve lost a lot-people close to us, livelihoods, and small businesses,” he said in the video. “Those losses hurt more because they reveal how our leaders failed to build a community and an economy that works for everyone everywhere, that tackles racial justice and climate change. Growing up, my family reminded us that too many people don’t get the opportunities we did, and that we have a responsibility to change that.”
Downing expects that he will not run in the Democratic race unopposed. According to multiple sources, Harvard professor Danielle Allen and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have hinted at their gubernatorial candidacies, which would give Downing competition in the race. Meanwhile, Governor Baker has not announced whether he will run for a third term. If he does, he will likely face Republican challengers, such as state Rep. Geoff Diehl.
Downing referred to a competitive race as “a good thing for the public.” He added, “Big, messy, fun debates are a good thing.”
The Massachusetts gubernatorial election will be held on Nov. 8, 2022.