Maura Healywho launched her campaign for governor in January with a revised letter pledging to continue what works and change what doesn’t, swept support for the Massachusetts Democratic Convention and vowed to be a champion for those left behind or excluded.
The two-term attorney general won the Democratic Party’s endorsement by a wide margin at Saturday’s state convention, taking 71 percent of the delegates’ vote to 29 percent for state Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, a Jamaica Blaine MP running to her left. Both candidates advance to the primaries in September after exceeding the winning threshold of 15 percent of the delegate vote. Either candidate will be the first woman elected governor in the state.
“In Massachusetts, we have the best people, innovation, and knowledge in the world,” Healy told the conference. “But many people and many families are stuck and hurt – unable to build a brighter future because of the barriers in their way.”
I promised to address that first by focusing on the economy. “Let’s put money back in people’s pockets by lowering housing, energy and healthcare costs,” she said.
The 51-year-old contestant in the race hit progressive topics in her conference speech, touting her work battling the NRA and ExxonMobil, while vowing to be steadfast in support of abortion rights and policies to address climate change and “structuralism.” Racism.”
But Healy has largely stuck to broad themes about the specifics of the policy, the approach that has guided her campaign since its launch in January. Healy did not particularly seek to base her course on the need to dramatically change course after Republican Charlie Baker’s two terms in office.
“We will continue what works, and fix what doesn’t,” said Healy, a message that seemed to offer both a nod to Baker’s mandate and an openness to change at the same time.
She faced criticism in the ensuing months for being vague about her rationale for running and the issues she would advance in office. Chang-Diaz, who has put forward a platform of progressive stances on everything from free public transportation to rent stabilization, has challenged Healey to debates, drawing criticism during many of the candidate forums in which they participated. But Healey largely attempted to float above the fight, espousing the leader’s aversion to the details of politics and engaging opponents.
Chang-Diaz, 44, in her address to the conference, went on to stress the need for sweeping change and a willingness to confront power brokers in the State Council, themes that fueled her underdog candidacy.
“I’m not a favorite of the Beacon Hill Foundation,” Zhang Diaz said. “When you spend your career pressing for change, it can make those in power uncomfortable.” An introductory video that I presented at the conference included Martin Luther King’s warning about the “sedative medicine of gradualism.”
In 2019, Zhang Diaz was removed from her position as Senate Chair of the Education Committee after she failed to broker a deal with members of the House of Representatives on amending the state’s Education Funding Act. She wore it as a sign of honor in her speech at the conference, saying she stood firmly on the need to take on the status quo and ensure more money for schools that educate poor students, a stance that eventually prevailed in the bill that passed.
While Zhang Diaz, who would be the state’s first Latino governor and first Asian American, emphasized the need to fight for change, even when it upsets those in power, Healy denounced the “divisiveness” and “anger” spurring the current political climate, something she said. It was shown in full at the state Republican convention two weeks ago in Springfield. “There’s a lot of hate and vitriol,” Healy said of the GOP meeting. “With everything going on, this should be a time for people to come together.”
“This will be a choice between progression or partisanship,” Healy said, already looking toward the general election in November. “Between handing over to people or dividing them.”
Haley emerged from the convention with an unusual combination of momentum: she is the clear favorite to win the party’s nomination in September and return a Democrat to the governor’s office in November. But getting there will depend, in part, on the support of independent voters who have been staunch supporters of the Republican governor it aims to achieve.
Hailey seemed well aware of that, starting with the statement she made regarding Baker when he announced in December that he would not run again.
“He’s been an important partner for my office and for me,” she said. “I have a deep respect and admiration for the way he led, with an obligation to do the right thing on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth.”
Zhang Diaz hit a very different note. “For far too long, people in power have asked working families to wait for change — despite the increasingly costly housing crisis, hard-to-reach childcare and health care, the existential threat of climate change, and longstanding racial injustice,” she said. In response to Baker’s announcement. “The people of Massachusetts are ready for a new chapter with new leadership.”
Baker remained one of the country’s most famous rulers. But in the breakdown of poll numbers that baffles national observers, his standing owes more to the high respect he commands among independent voters and a section of Democrats than to the support of members of his own party, which has veered sharply to the right and rejected the Republican moderate of the once-dominant Massachusetts brand.
At modern Suffolk University /Boston Globe Poll, by a margin of 51-32 Massachusetts voters said the state is going in the right direction versus going the wrong track. But that margin rose to 74-15 among Democrats. The ratio was 46-33 among independents. Meanwhile, Republicans, by a margin of 68-20, said the state is on the wrong track after more than seven years of GOP control of the governor’s office. When it came to the state’s next governor, voters said more than 2-1 they wanted someone to continue what worked and fix what wasn’t working in exchange for a candidate’s pledge to make bold change. The question appears to have been a close proxy for the Democratic primary between Healy and Chang Diaz.
The same poll had defeated Healy, Republican nominee Jeff Dale or Chris Doughty by 2-1, winning independent voters by 20 points. It showed that Zhang Diaz outperformed the GOP candidate, but by smaller margins.
Healy’s entry into the race was widely anticipated when she announced her candidacy in January, seven weeks after Baker said he would not seek a third term.
Healy, who would be the nation’s first lesbian governor, if elected, defied the party establishment eight years ago when she ousted former state Senator Warren Tolman in the Democratic primary for attorney general. She won two terms in the AG position and entered Saturday’s convention no longer as an outsider, but as the supposed party standard-bearer.
Healy set a record as an AG crusader on a number of issues. I made a splash before Repeated prosecution of the Trump administration on everything from environmental regulations to for-profit universities and immigration policy.
In terms of healthcare, it has thrown up some barriers to hospital mergers and raised concerns about the market dominance of General Brigham’s bloc driving up the already high healthcare costs in the state.
But in many areas, even the outlines of what the Healy administration might look like have been hard to discern.
When asked after agreeing to the agreement about accusations from some liberals that she has shied away from challenging the status quo, Healy marked a list of areas from her time as the AG that she said showed otherwise.
“I don’t think I was accused of failing to advance the status quo when I sued President Obama to successfully challenge the Defense of Marriage Act, when I dealt with predatory mortgage lenders in the mortgage crisis who were destroying black and brown communities, when I was the first attorney general to sue the Sacklers and fire the firm Purdue Pharma
When asked if she might see the race as it really is in the bag, Hailey turned to her previous life as a point guard at Harvard University. “Look, I’m a competitor. I’ve played enough matches in my life to know not to pay attention to results or polls or anything else,” she said. “It is about hard work. It is about clamoring. It is about team building and teamwork.”