The 2022 race for governor opened in earnest Monday as a former state senator and clean energy executive launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Ben Downing represented Pittsfield and 51 other much smaller communities in the Senate from 2007 to 2017 before abiding by a voluntary term limit and moving to Boston to work for solar startup Nexamp.

Downing left the Senate after ten years well-regarded by progressives, the Democratic establishment and the energy and environmental advocates he worked with as Senate chair of the utilities and energy committee.

Downing told GBH News in an interview that he'll base his campaign on sparking a "sense of urgency" in Massachusetts politics and government.

"Massachusetts has all of the tools, all of the potential to solve the big problems that we're facing," Downing, 39, said.

"Economic injustice, racial injustice, climate change and all of the related issues. What we don't have is the sense of urgency that allows us to make the progress we need to make on them," he said.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has not announced whether he will run again and seek to become the first chief executive to serve three consecutive four-year terms in office.

Downing said Democrats so far have made the mistake of trying to associatie Baker with the national GOP, which he says voters in Massachusetts reject.

"They know Charlie Baker isn't Donald Trump, and we're all better for it," he said.

"But that is a low bar to set for our governor. There is a much higher bar that we ought to strive for, and that's the case I'm going to make to Democrats in 351 cities and towns," Downing said.

Downing said Massachusetts voters, known for splitting the ticket between parties when a moderate Republican like Baker is on the ballot, hold candidates for governor to a different standard than simple partisanship.

"They want to know that you share their values, but they also want to know they can trust you to stand up for the broader public interest, especially when it requires you disagreeing with a majority of members of your own party," he said.

Downing is the first Democrat to announce a candidacy for governor. Harvard political science professor Danielle Allen said in December that she's in the exploratory phase of a run for the office. Quincy Democrat and former Wall Street trader Scott Khourie told The Patriot Ledger last month that he is also considering a run for the executive office.