It’s that Massachusetts Democrats, above all else, distrust the Republican regime of the executive suite. They are marked by Donald Trump’s years in the White House and face the prospect of a Republican gubernatorial candidate endorsed by the former president. They just want someone who can win.
“It’s a natural extension of [Joe] Biden beating Trump,” Boston-based veteran Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh, who does not work for either candidate, said in an interview. “People don’t want Donald Trump, they don’t want Donald Trump’s cronies or supporters in power. This is why people are very lucid about who they support, who they approve of, and who they think can win.
Republicans have held the governorship in deep blue Massachusetts for most of the past 30 years, propelled to Beacon Hill time and time again by independents who make up 57% of state voters and Democrats willing to cross lines of the party to vote for fiscally conservative, socially moderate cadres.
Only one Democrat, Deval Patrick, managed to break that streak. But the Democrats’ next standard bearer, former state attorney general Martha Coakley, fell short in 2014 against Republican Charlie Baker, now America’s most popular governor.
Baker’s decision not to seek a third term leaves Healey on course to become the second Democrat to hold the Bay State’s highest office since 1991.
“Everyone is under the impression that you are not going to take anything for granted, even though it is clear that the ground changed when Governor Baker said he was not seeking re-election,” the senator said. Adam Hinds, who was eliminated from the race for Democratic lieutenant governor at the convention, said in an interview.
“Everyone is absolutely keeping their heads down and making sure we cross the finish line to make sure we have a Democratic administration,” he added, “because they don’t come that often.” »
Massachusetts presents one of the best chances for Democrats to flip a gubernatorial seat this cycle largely because of Healey’s strength as a candidate. With more than $2 million raised since launching her campaign and more than $5 million in the bank, Healey outstrips her rivals in both parties by multitudes. She leads the polls – of primary and general election games – in double digits.
And although the attorney general has already run and won statewide twice, his likely Republican opponent, former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, lost his last statewide race to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and is backed by Trump, whom voters here have twice vehemently rejected.
Several of the state’s top Democratic politicians are coalescing around Healey well before the Sept. 6 primary. The Speaker of the State House and the Speaker of the Senate endorsed Healey over Chang-Díaz. Deputy Speaker of the House Catherine Clark and representatives. Lori Trahan and Jake Auchinclos supported Healey heading into the convention, as did state treasurer Deb Goldberg. In another blow to Chang-Díaz in a primary between two progressives, several of the most prominent progressive voices in the state legislature have now sided with the attorney general.
“It is imperative that we appoint a progressive Democrat who will advance [progressive] problems, and who we know can be successful in November,” State Rep. Mike Connolly said in a letter to local convention delegates announcing his endorsement. “The candidate who meets these two criteria is Maura Healey. »
Healey’s early dominance created both an air of inevitability around his rise to the governor’s office — and a desire to play it safe to ensure it happens.
“It reminds me of the 2020 presidential primary, Biden supporters,” said Jonathan Cohn, a Democratic State Committee member and political director for Progressive Massachusetts, which backed Chang-Díaz, in an interview. “You have some willingness to settle if you’re the kind of party-loyal Democrat and happy to have a Democratic governor for the first time in eight years.” »
Even with leading election forecasters predicting that Massachusetts is a “Lean” or “Probably D” and with Democrats who already control the state legislature likely to sweep all constitutional and federal offices in the state this fall, the Democratic activists and candidates down to Healey herself are sounding alarms about complacency.
Healey used much of his convention speech to sound a dire warning about the possibility of Republican control in Massachusetts and beyond, arguing that the right would ‘take us backwards’ on gun control , reproductive rights and racial justice.
“The other side is mobilizing. They are excited. They think it’s their time. They expect to claim governor’s offices across the country,” Healey said. “Not in Massachusetts. »
Delegates roared their approval.
Healey, a political neophyte when she upset former state senator Warren Tolman in 2014 en route to winning her first race for attorney general, soon shone a national profile by suing everyone from Trump to Purdue Pharma.
Yet she was criticized by a vocal contingent of progressive activists for running a gubernatorial campaign light on political specifics. While her recently revamped website lays out the steps Healey would take in 11 key areas, she has only officially rolled out one policy platform, a climate plan, compared to a list of Chang-Díaz proposals covering everything , from education to transport.
“Healey’s policies aren’t completely there,” delegate Mariam Ibrahimi, who voted for Chang-Díaz at the convention, said in an interview. “It reminds me of the classic Democratic Massachusetts voter: middle of the road and centrist. »
Chang-Díaz exceeded expectations at the Democrats conference by gaining 29% support among delegates — a combination of strong supporters, party activists who wanted to reward Chang-Díaz’s decade of pioneering service as the first Latin American and Asian elected to the State Senate, and people who just wanted to see a primary.
Still, the top statewide job seeker faces an uphill battle against the Healey juggernaut. And while her supporters recognize that she may not be what the party is looking for in its candidate this year, she is what they think it needs.
“I’m not the Beacon Hill establishment’s favorite candidate,” Chang-Díaz proudly declared in her speech to the convention. “There’s a reason for that: when you spend your career pushing for change, it can make those in power uncomfortable. Sometimes you pay the price. And my friends, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
Some Democrats have also decried Healey’s approach – “to continue with what works and fix what doesn’t” – as being too deferential to the Baker administration.
“If you’re looking for a governor to pass bolder legislation than Baker, [Chang-Díaz] is the one,” Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat who won votes for Chang-Díaz at the convention, said in an interview.
Still, others see Healey’s overtures to Baker voters, moderate Democrats and independents as a shrewd strategy from a candidate who — just like Democrats and Republicans before her — will need all of those camps to make her cross the finish line in November.
Healey’s supporters also bristle at opponents’ claims that she’s too “established” or moderate in this race, portraying her as a crusader pushing for gun control and writing off student loan debt and renting. the fact that, if elected, she would be the nation. first openly lesbian governor.
“In the past, we played it safe with an established, albeit uninspiring, candidate at the expense of a more exciting candidate,” Sen. Julian Cyr, a Cape Cod Democrat and Healey supporter, said in an interview. “But with Healey, we can kind of have our cake and eat it too. »