Maura Healey launches gubernatorial campaign, vowing to ‘continue with what works and fix what doesn’t’

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“It’s a moment of possibility. It’s also a moment of opportunity,” Healey said. “And I think I’m the person who brings the right kind of skills, the right kind of perspectives, the right kind of know-how to take us forward.”

Analysts say Healey’s $3.7 million war chest and increased notoriety make her the candidate to beat. With the state’s two top Republicans, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, out of this year’s race, Democrats are optimistic about their chances of winning back the office – and many believe Healey has good chance of doing so.

“An A-lister has entered the race,” Erin O’Brien, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “She’s coming in with money, she’s coming in with name recognition in the country, she’s coming in good faith in terms of pushing back against Trumpism. And the other candidates just can’t brag about it.

There are three other major candidates in the race: State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz and Harvard professor Danielle Allen, both Democrats, and Republican Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

Any of the three Democrats would go down in history as Massachusetts’ first elected female governor; Chang-Dίaz, who is Latina, and Allen, who is Black, would each be the first women of color to hold the position. Healey was the nation’s first openly gay attorney general, and if she wins, she would be the first openly gay person elected governor of Massachusetts. Only two openly LGBTQ people have been elected governors in the United States.

Healey’s entry could discourage other hopefuls from entering the field, although the contours of the run remain unclear. US Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh has been encouraged to consider running, according to people close to the former Boston mayor, although Walsh was seen as unlikely to mount a campaign if Healey was in the race.

The thrust of Healey’s remarks on Thursday — that the state should target glaring issues while leaving many things untouched — immediately set her apart from her two Democratic rivals, who framed this year’s gubernatorial race as an opportunity to transform the status quo. Healey’s narrower approach may prove popular with voters in Massachusetts; in polls over the years, the majority of residents have consistently said they believe the state is heading towards good direction. Massachusetts is consistently at or near the top of national rankings for public education and access to health insurance, but it is also one of the most unequal states in the country.

In Healey’s early hours as a candidate, she dodged the question of whether she considered herself an “ultra-progressive” Democrat, saying she would “leave it to others to characterize my record.”

And unlike the other two Democrats, who have incorporated criticism of Baker into their campaigns, Healey has avoided direct criticism of the incumbent, who is not seeking re-election this year.

“There are many ways people can question decisions made by governors. [or] mayors during this time,” Healey said in response to a question about the difference between his approach to the pandemic and Baker’s. “What I think should continue to guide us is science.”

For his part, Baker did not enter the contest, telling reporters at State House on Thursday, “I’m not much of a tipster, never have been.”

“I think what voters want most of all is people who will focus on the job and not the noise,” he added.

Healey offered few details or political positions in his fledgling campaign, instead pointing to climate change and job training as top priorities, along with the need to “upgrade our schools.” When asked if schools should be required to offer in-person instruction amid rising COVID-19 cases and rising teacher and student absences, Healey said that the state needed “flexibility” to allow remote learning, but did not directly request it.

As she develops and presents her policy platform, Healey will have to persuade voters that her tenure as state’s attorney has prepared her for the wide range of issues governors face.

His original focus contrasts sharply with the message of his progressive opponents, who have called for “transformation” since entering the race last year.

Chang-Díaz, for example, wants to make public transit free; Allen said she wanted to eliminate tariffs for low-income workers.

Chang-Díaz has passed a “Green New Deal” for Massachusetts that includes halting construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure as part of a climate plan. Allen has launched a “Democratic agenda” to subject the governor’s office to public records law – he currently considers himself exempt – and Massachusetts is the first state to “reverse the impact of Citizens United”, the decision of the 2010 Supreme Court that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections.

Some analysts said Healey was wise to focus his campaign on economic issues.

Doug Rubin, a seasoned Democratic strategist who is not involved in any of the governors’ campaigns, said inflation, COVID-19 and the inequity the pandemic has exacerbated have pushed economic concerns to the fore in the mind of many voters. ”

“Candidates who don’t respond to this upfront, it’s going to make them feel disconnected,” Rubin said. “Maura, to her credit, tackled this from the start.”

Healey’s campaign began to gain rapid momentum within hours of his predawn announcement, raising $100,000 in the first six hours alone, an aide said. And she got the first endorsements from Teamsters Local 25, the Association of Democratic Attorneys Generaland Barbara Lee, who runs a political operation and research foundation that champions equality for women in American politics.

Its rivals were even quicker to release statements posing as superior options.

On Wednesday, as news of Healey’s intention to run began to spread ahead of his formal announcement, Allen and Chang-Dίaz issued statements casting themselves as superior options and portraying Healey as a familiar status quo pick.

“I’m in this race — and I’ve been in it for a year — to make sure Massachusetts has a real choice,” Allen said. “A choice between a perspective ready to face the moment and the status quo. And a choice between the narrow solutions that our policies offer us, or a chance to reinvent the possible.

Chang-Dίaz, who launched his campaign last June, called Thursday’s race “different styles, different priorities and different records”.

“I think there are clear differentiators ahead of [having] the willingness to take on tough fights, even when they are tough and impractical,” said Chang-Dίaz, a Jamaican plains democrat and seasoned progressive lawmaker.

Diehl, a conservative Republican running, called Healey and the other two leading candidates a “trio of radical progressives” and said Massachusetts voters’ choice should be clear: “Live under government control in every aspect of your life, or live in a state where you are free to choose a school, a career, and a life of autonomy and unlimited opportunity.

Healey grew up in the small town of Hampton Falls, NH, one of five children born to a single mother. Standing just 5ft 4in, Healey captained the Harvard women’s varsity basketball team and played the sport professionally in Europe for two years. Experiences that she says taught her the importance of teamwork.

A graduate of Harvard College and Northeastern University School of Law, Healey worked in the attorney general’s office for seven years before successfully campaigning to lead it. His tenure included heading the public protection and business and labor agency offices. She also worked as the head of the Civil Rights Division and led Massachusetts’ fight against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

During her two terms as attorney general, Healey used a role sometimes seen as a mere public servant to rise to the national stage. Along with Democratic attorneys general in other states, she has been involved in dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration, fighting for environmental regulations, student loan protections and evictions of so-called DACA dreamers. . She also targeted giant corporations like ExxonMobil and Purdue Pharma.

Healey enters the race with major advantages, not the least of which is his stock of cash. But she also faces an ongoing challenge: Attorneys general running for governor have often struggled in that state. Analysts say the position is a tough edge to run from given the somewhat limited role attorneys general play in many policy areas, and the potential downsides of being seen as the state’s ‘top cop’. .

Democrat Maura Healey waved to supporters before addressing reporters during her first campaign stop as a gubernatorial candidate.Lane Turner / Globe Staff

Healey’s announcement also quickly set off dominoes in the race for his now open seat.

Former Boston City Councilwoman Andrea J. Campbell, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year, is seriously considering running for attorney general, according to people familiar with her thinking.

If she launched a campaign, the Mattapan Democrat would likely join two others eyeing the seat: Quentin Palfrey, the Massachusetts Democrats’ 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor and a lawyer who served in the Biden administration, and Shannon Liss -Riordan, a Brookline labor attorney. and former candidate for the United States Senate.


Emma Platoff can be contacted at emma.platoff@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emmaplatoff. Matt Stout can be contacted at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.

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