Danielle Allen ends gubernatorial campaign 

Criticizes Democratic caucus system 

DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE Danielle Allen announced Tuesday that she will end her campaign for governor.  

Allen, a Harvard professor, entered the race in June of 2021, but struggled to gain traction, particularly after Attorney General Maura Healey jumped in in January. 

Allen exited as Democrats are holding their caucuses, events at which party activists select delegates to go to the party convention and choose the party’s candidates. Under the caucus system, a candidate needs 15 percent of the vote from convention delegates in order to get on the Democratic primary ballot.  

Allen, in a statement, expressed frustration at the system, which likely could have disqualified her. “As I transition out of this campaign and towards my next phase of work on behalf of our democracy, I want to sound an alarm on something that has become clearer to me through this work — a ballot access process that does a disservice to Massachusetts’ history of leadership on democracy,” Allen said. “Through both simple math in a winner-takes-all process, and limited engagement access for the broader Democratic electorate, the current ballot access procedure through the current caucus system is leading to a serious impoverishment of our democracy — fewer choices on the ballot, fewer non-traditional candidates able to enter the pipeline.” 

Allen said she intends to work to change the caucus process. “In Massachusetts, where we pride ourselves on being the birthplace of democracy, there is no excuse for ballot access procedures that push out qualified but non-traditional candidates and rob the people of Massachusetts of real choice on their ballot,” she said. “As I reflect on my next steps for civic engagement, working on democratic reform in this area will be a priority for me.” 

Allen was a first-time political candidate and a scholar of Athenian democracy who directed Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She gained attention with some of her bold proposals, like decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of all types of drugs.  

Allen raised $1.3 million for her campaign. But a recent poll by the MassINC Polling Group, which shares a parent nonprofit company with CommonWealth, found that only 3 percent of likely Democratic primary voters would vote for her today, compared to 12 percent for state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and 48 percent for Healey. More than three-quarters of those polled never heard of Allen. 

In her statement, Allen said she continues to believe that democracy “is in dire straits.” “It has lost the confidence and trust of many of us, and it is not securing safety, wellbeing, and happiness for many of us,” she said. She said she believes the solution lies in the states, where one can build “trustworthy, accountable government, government where all are included and have voice.” She said she is proud to have been the first Black woman to run for statewide office in Massachusetts. 

While Allen did not say what she will do next, she said she would remain involved in civic issues. “Today, while I am announcing my decision to wind down my campaign for governor, my commitment to continue creating progress on these issues — arm in arm with activists and community members across our Commonwealth — is unwavering,” she said. 

Allen’s exit leaves Chang-Diaz and Healey as the remaining Democrats in the race. Chang-Diaz has charted a course as an unabashed progressive, unafraid to criticize Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and, more recently, Healey as well.  

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Healey also has a liberal track record but has been less critical of Baker as she tries to court the independent voters who have often propelled moderate Republicans to the governor’s office. 

Chang-Diaz said in a statement that Allen “brought an important voice and valuable experience to the campaign trail every day, including in areas of housing, criminal justice, democracy, and health equity.” “She’s been clear that Massachusetts and our next Governor need to take on the status quo, act with the vision and urgency that this moment demands, and deliver real, transformational change for our state,” Chang-Diaz said. 

Healey said in a statement that it was an honor to be in the race alongside Allen. “I’d like to thank Danielle for her service throughout this campaign,” Healey said. “Her commitment to strengthening our democracy and building a more equitable, united Massachusetts is inspiring.”