BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker is fattening his campaign coffers as speculation grows the popular Republican may seek an unprecedented third term.
Baker reported raising $165,418 last month, according to his latest filings with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. That's his biggest fundraising haul in more than two years.
By comparison, Baker's campaign account only reported about $900 in contributions during the preceding month.
While Baker hasn't said he will seek a third term, he hasn't ruled it out, and his campaign has been keeping its fundraising on slow burn in the event that he decides to run again in 2022.
To be sure, Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito already have a sizable war chest at their disposal. The duo had more than $2.5 million between their campaign accounts as of Jan. 4, according to OCPF records.
Some of the money has amassed over the past year, but a sizable chunk was leftover from previous campaigns.
Polito's contributions were even slightly higher than Baker's in December, with the Shrewsbury Republican raking in $165,944, according to campaign disclosures.
The Baker-Polito fundraising machine is well oiled and known for shaking the state's biggest money trees, drumming up more cash than any gubernatorial campaign in recent history. During the 2018 campaign, Baker and Polito at one point had more than $10 million combined in their campaign coffers.
Many of Baker's contributions in December came from usual suspects -- lawyers, lobbyists and real estate developers who traditionally open up their checkbooks for the state's top elected officials at the end of the year.
But he also picked up small donations from supporters like Charles and Hilda Parrott, of Newburyport, who each chipped in $50.
"I think he should seek a third term," said Charles Parrott, a longtime Baker supporter. "I've been really pleased with the job he's done over the past six years and don't see anyone else at this point who could do as good a job."
There are no term limits for Massachusetts governors, and while a handful in the past have served three terms, most don't stick around longer than eight years.
Democrat Mike Dukakis is the most recent governor to serve three terms but not consecutively. He was governor from 1975-79, and again from 1984-1991.
Leverett Saltonstall, a Republican, served three consecutive terms from 1939-1945. But terms for governor were only two years back then, so he was only in office six years.
Recent governors, including Republican Bill Weld and Democrat Deval Patrick, have toyed with the idea of seeking a third term but ultimately decided against it.
Political observers say Baker's stratospheric popularity -- his job approval numbers remain among the highest of any governor -- could ensure him a long tenure.
"Gov. Baker's prospects are very strong for a third term," said Jeff Berry, a political science professor at Tuft's University. "He remains popular throughout the state. And there's no indication that a major Democrat is going to step forward at this time to contest him, so right now he's the pavement."
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Eagle-Tribune. Email him at email@example.com