Healey’s delicate dance with labels
AG proclaims her progressive cred, but could benefit as moderate Dem
COULD IT BE that the heir to Republican Charlie Baker and his magic moderate recipe for political success is the state’s Trump-suing Democratic attorney general, Maura Healey?
Healey might not mind if that’s the case, but just don’t say it too loudly. That is one way to read the early days of her entry into the governor’s race.
The conversation this week on the mood of the electorate has largely centered on the results of a new survey by the MassINC Polling Group.
The poll, carried out for the center-left group Policy for Progress, found that Healey has a big lead over her two Democratic primary rivals, Harvard professor Danielle Allen and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. Among likely Democratic primary voters, Healey was the choice of 48 percent, Chang-Diaz pulled support from 12 percent, and Allen stood at 3 percent.
Globe columnist Scot Lehigh pronounces the poll findings “good news” for Healey. “Healey has positioned herself as a pragmatist, noting that her approach will be to keep what’s working and fix what’s not,” he writes this morning. “Her two primary rivals are offering rhetoric and proposals that are farther left. She seems much closer to the state’s political sweet spot.”
Lehigh points out that more Democratic primary voters said they’d be influenced by a Baker endorsement in the primary than one from “left-wing crusader” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (44 percent vs. 31 percent).
For her part, Healey still seems to be figuring out how she wants to position herself in the race.
At her first media availability after announcing her candidacy last month, Healey was asked by NBC10’s Alison King whether she puts herself on the same “plane” as “uber progressive” Ayanna Pressley, whose 2018 insurgent campaign got an important early endorsement from the AG.
“I’ll leave that to others to characterize my record,” Healey said. When pressed on whether her views usually line up with those of Pressley, Healey said, “I think if you look at my record, it speaks for itself in terms where I am on fighting systemic racism and inequality, fighting for access to affordable health care, recognizing that across every sector, whether it’s employment, transportation, the environment, criminal justice, we can and should apply an equity lens to everything that we do.”
On an appearance on Thursday on WBUR’s “Radio Boston,” Healey finally embraced the p-word when asked whether she was a moderate.
“I am a proud progressive and I am incredibly proud of my record,” she said. “I mean, look, I was the one that challenged and successfully defeated the Defense of Marriage Act. I brought cases against big banks, first-of-its-kind civil rights claims for their discriminatory practices back in the day of the mortgage meltdown in 2008.”
A big reason for the moderate tilt not just of the state’s overall electorate but of likely Democratic primary voters is that those not registered under either party label can vote in either primary. These “unenrolled” voters now make up the majority of the state electorate (57 percent vs. 32 percent who are registered as Democrats and 10 percent who are Republicans).
In that regard, the only piece of potentially bad news for Healey in recent days is the entry of businessman Chris Doughty into the Republican primary race.It’s not clear that Doughty, who casts himself in the more moderate mold of Baker, will gain traction in his primary race against Trump-backed conservative Geoff Diehl. If he does, he could draw some unenrolled voters to cast a ballot in the Republican primary – voters who would otherwise have voted in the Democratic contest and presumably been more inclined toward Healey than either of her more left-leaning rivals.
For now, though, Healey seems pretty well positioned – whatever you call her.