Healey launches run for governor
Two-term AG enters open race in strong position
ENDING MONTHS OF speculation, Attorney General Maura Healey announced her candidacy for governor on Thursday, declaring she’s ready to take the passion she’s brought as “the people’s lawyer” to the challenge of expanding job training and affordable childcare and modernizing public education as Massachusetts recovers from the pandemic.
“I’ve stood with you as the people’s lawyer, and now I’m running to be your governor, to bring us together and come back stronger than ever,” Healey said in a video announcing her run.
The 50-year-old Boston resident has carved out an identity as a progressive crusader, taking on big oil companies, the pharmaceutical company tied to the opioid addiction crisis, and the administration of former president Donald Trump. She has also showcased a level of charisma and a human touch that are gold for political candidates – but not always in prominent qualities among attorneys general.
The two-term Democratic AG immediately becomes the front-runner for the seat following last month’s announcement by popular Republican incumbent Charlie Baker that he won’t seek a third term this year.
Former state representative Geoff Diehl, a right-leaning supporter of former president Donald Trump who seems out of step with the state’s electorate, is the only candidate currently in the Republican race for governor.
With solid name recognition from two successful statewide campaigns and more than $3.6 million in her campaign account, Healey starts out as the favorite to win her party’s nomination and to reclaim the governor’s seat for Democrats, who have only held the office for eight of the last 32 years.
Declaring “we’ll continue with what’s working and fix what’s not,” Healey vowed in her kickoff video to take on climate change and “bring justice and equality to everyone.”
In 2018, Healey was the first state AG to sue the Sackler family that controls Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, and she was part of the multistate $4.5 billion settlement with the company announced last July. (In December, the settlement was thrown out by a federal judge who said it improperly shielded the Sackler family from civil liability.)
In 2019, Healey filed suit against ExxonMobil claiming it mislead consumers and investors about the impact of climate change. Meanwhile, she filed or joined nearly four dozen multistate lawsuits against the Trump administration, challenging the Republican administration on everything from for-profit college oversight to climate change and immigration policies.
The attorney general serves as the state’s chief law enforcement official. “But you can also use the office to be on the side of progressive causes and consumers and have a left-of-center profile in that position,” said David Hopkins, a political science professor at Boston College. “I think she’s very much followed that playbook.”
Healey clerked for US District Court Judge A. David Mazzone, worked as a litigator at a major Boston law firm, and served as a prosecutor in Middlesex County before joining the attorney general’s office in 2007, leading several divisions and bureaus in the office.
In 2014, she ran for attorney general as a first-time candidate in an open race, crushing her Democratic primary opponent, Warren Tolman, a heavily favored former state lawmaker who started out with the backing of lots of Democratic power brokers. She went on to easily defeat a Republican opponent in the November election and cruised to reelection to a second term in 2018 with 70 percent of the vote.
Healey has at times taken up big issues not immediately related to work her office is doing. In early June 2020, she delivered a passionate address on race issues to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. In her speech, delivered shortly after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Healey spoke of the country’s legacy of “400 years of racism and oppression” and said in her own work, “I’ve fallen short.” She suggested the protests then sweeping the country might yield long-term positive results. “Yes, America is burning. But that’s how forests grow,” Healey said in remarks that drew a rebuke from state Republican Party chairman Jim Lyons.
Despite her progressive profile, Healey may find herself pegged as the more establishment, moderate candidate relative to the Democratic field.
Chang-Diaz has carved out a decidedly left-leaning agenda on everything from taxes to criminal justice reform. She alluded to differences with Healey in a statement released on Wednesday anticipating the AG’s entry into the race.
“In this time of crisis, we need a robust conversation about how our government serves working families and meets our biggest challenges. Maura and I have differing records when it comes to priorities and governing, and I look forward to her joining the ongoing conversation we’re having with voters across Massachusetts,” Chang-Diaz said. She said the state needs a governor willing to take on tough fights for change “even when it’s not politically convenient. I am that person.”
Allen, in a statement on Healey’s campaign launch, said: “This election is about the urgent challenges we’re facing — from the pandemic, to the climate crisis, to racial injustice, to the strains on our democracy.” She said “status quo is not an option” in responding to problems. “We need a fresh perspective that can see beyond the politics and start bringing us together to build solutions.”
The track record for attorneys general looking to move into the governor’s office has not been encouraging. Healey’s three immediate predecessors – Martha Coakley, Tom Reilly, and Scott Harshbarger – all mounted failed campaigns for governor. Frank Bellotti, a popular three-term AG, lost three different races for the corner office.
But from her first campaign in 2014, which featured an television ad of the candidate spinning a basketball on her fingertip, Healey has has exuded a pizzaz that seemed to set her apart from predecessors who became too pigeonholed as stern-faced prosecutors to make the pivot to a successful governor’s race. That has led some to think she is well-positioned to break the “curse of the AG” when it comes to winning higher office.Veteran political strategist Michael Goldman, who was a consultant on Healey’s 2014 campaign but is no longer working for her, said her political skills were apparent from the start.
“Closing in on a 50-year career of doing campaigns in Massachusetts, I’ve never met anyone who had the ability she has to connect on both a substantive and visceral way with virtually everyone they encounter,” said Goldman. “You can’t put your finger on it, and you can’t teach it. She just has a natural ability to give people a sense of competence and compassion.”