Healey elected first female, gay Massachusetts governor 

Democrats take control of all constitutional offices in historic election 

MAURA HEALEY shattered a glass ceiling on Tuesday in a landslide, becoming the first woman ever elected governor in Massachusetts. She topped a Democratic ticket that elected three new women to statewide office, including the first Black woman to hold a statewide position, and extend Democratic control to every single constitutional office.  

Healey, who had a nearly 2-to-1 lead over former Republican state rep Geoff Diehl as of midnight, is also poised to become the first openly lesbian governor in the country, possibly joined by Democrat Tina Kotek, if she wins her race in Oregon. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll will be Healey’s lieutenant governor.  

“Tonight I want to say something to every little girl and every young LGBTQ person out there,” Healey said, speaking at a Massachusetts Democratic Party victory event at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. “I hope tonight shows you that you can be whatever, whoever you want to be.” Healey, wearing a white pantsuit, an outfit that has come to symbolize women’s rights, got a sustained ovation from the packed crowd upon declaring that she will be the first woman and first gay person ever elected Massachusetts governor.  

Driscoll opened her remarks by exclaiming that Massachusetts made “her-story.” “This evening is 242 years in the making,” Driscoll said, referring to the year Massachusetts adopted its state constitution. “Today Massachusetts voters stood proud and spoke with one powerful clear voice and said it’s her time.” 

Healey had positioned herself during the campaign as someone willing to work across party lines, similar to outgoing Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. In her victory speech, Healey again pledged bipartisanship. 

“To those who voted for me and to those who didn’t, I want you to know I’ll be a governor for everyone.  And I’ll work with anyone who’s up for making a difference in this state,” Healey said. Healey said she and Driscoll will meet Wednesday with Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to begin discussing the transition. “Tomorrow we will model the kind of leadership and collaboration and, yes, the respect we want to see elsewhere,” Healey said. 

Healey’s centrist message in the race, during which she often gave credit to the Baker administration for its handling of state government, contrasted sharply with the campaign run by Diehl, a supporter of former president Donald Trump, who ran hard to the right and never made a serious play for the huge swath of Massachusetts voters who fall in the political middle. In the end, the race was something of a layup for former Harvard basketball point guard, who also coasted to the Democratic nomination after all her rivals dropped out.

Former Boston city councilor Andrea Campbell defeated Republican Jay McMahon in her quest to replace Healey as attorney general, becoming the first Black woman to win statewide office in Massachusetts. Having Campbell, a Black woman, in the state’s top legal position is likely to carry significant resonance at a time when racial disparities in policing and the criminal justice system are getting increasing attention. 

State Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a Democrat from Methuen, defeated Republican Anthony Amore in the race for auditor. Amore was the only Republican statewide candidate endorsed by Baker, but he was running only slightly ahead of Diehl. 

Incumbent Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin defeated Republican challenger Rayla Campbell to win a historic eighth term in office, making him the longest-tenured secretary in Massachusetts.  

Incumbent state treasurer Deborah Goldberg, a Democrat, easily defeated libertarian challenger Cristina Crawford to retain her position.  

Since 2015, women have held four of the constitutional offices, but this will be the first time women have held five of the six top posts, including the governor’s office. All of the women elected have worked their way up in politics over the years, serving in municipal, legislative, or state offices.  

“It may seem like this is a sudden wave of women leaders, this unprecedented number of incredibly powerful women leaders,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at the Democrats’ election night celebration. “But those who we’re celebrating tonight have been at this for a very long time.” 

Healey ran for office for the first time in 2014, when she was elected attorney general. Before that, she worked as head of the attorney general’s civil rights division, as a private practice attorney, a Middlesex County prosecutor – and was a professional basketball player in Europe.  

During her campaign, Healey rarely played up the historic nature of her candidacy, focusing instead primarily on policy issues, like climate change, housing, abortion rights, education, and others. But asked last Thursday about the possibility of becoming the first female governor, Healey said she thinks it is significant and “long overdue.”  

“I’m proud of the entire ticket and what it represents because at the end of the day we’re going to have better laws and policies when those in office, just like those in boardrooms, reflect the diversity of the populations that they serve or work on behalf of,” Healey said. 

Healey said it is also important because of the model it sets for the next generation. “With the opportunity to elect women, it will also mean something for a lot of little girls out there who can see themselves maybe someday as governor or secretary of state or attorney general, and that’s important because you don’t want anyone to be limited by their race or their ethnicity or their gender, for example, when it comes to things like getting elected,” Healey said. 

Galvin, who defeated a Republican woman, said Monday that he thinks people are aware of the significance of electing women to office, but it is positive that it was not seen as a bigger deal during the race. “It’s less about that, it’s more about policy,” Galvin said. 

One reason electing female leaders is significant, experts say, is because it will erode stereotypes and encourage the next generation of women to run. 

“Voters have entrenched stereotypes of what a governor looks like,” said Amanda Hunter, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that researches women in politics. “Having women elected at the highest levels in Massachusetts will break down stereotypes and hopefully erode the ‘imagination barrier’ for good.”  

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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.

Hunter said that is particularly significant in a state like Massachusetts that has existed for hundreds of years with leadership positions dominated by men. Organization founder Barbara Lee often refers to Massachusetts as the “original old boys club.” 

Erin O’Brien, an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston who has written about women in Massachusetts politics, said women also legislate differently. While both women and men are focused on reelection and constituent services, women often ask different questions and prioritize different policy issues, she said. For example, O’Brien recalled Wu posting on Twitter when an MBTA station was not accessible to strollers. “We might expect [Healey] to prioritize women’s interests in ways that previous governors probably would have voted similar to her, but she’ll make sure legislation gets to the top of her desk,” O’Brien said.