In first campaign stop, Healey stays on script
AG sticks to broad themes, sidesteps questions on decision timeline
IN HER FIRST public appearance as a candidate for governor, Maura Healey waved off talk that she’s the front-runner in the race – but very much acted that way, sticking to broad brushstrokes on issues, while deflecting questions about COVID school policy and her decision-making timeline in deciding to launch her campaign.
The two-term Democratic attorney general officially announced her candidacy in a video released early Thursday morning, but she had been widely expected to join the race, especially after Gov. Charlie Baker announced in early December that he won’t run for a third term this fall.
Addressing reporters on Thursday morning outside the Maverick Square MBTA station in East Boston, Healey largely stuck to campaign platitudes. She said the pandemic has taken a big toll on residents, but she’s confident about the state’s future. “We’re in a hard time right now, but we’re going to get through it, and we’re going to go on and we’re going to build forward in ways we can’t even imagine right now,” Healey said, touching on many of the same themes of her launch video, including expanding job training and making childcare more affordable.
Healey enters the contest as the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination in a race with Harvard professor Danielle Allen and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain. She’s won two statewide races, had 76 percent name recognition in a recent survey by the MassINC Polling Group, and is sitting on more than $3.6 million in campaign funds. Still, the 50-year-old Boston resident waved off a reporter’s suggestion that she might have the race in the bag.
As Healey delayed last year any announcement on her plans for the 2022 election, there was speculation that she was waiting to hear what Baker would do – and that she might not run if the popular Republican governor decided to seek a third term. But Healey offered little insight into her thinking or the timeline of her decision.
Asked when she decided to run, she steered clear of any details of that process. “I can’t remember the exact moment, but I’ll tell you I’m here today, and I am psyched about it,” she said. As for whether she’d be in the race if Baker were running, Healey suggested those issues were yesterday’s news. “This is so rear view right now, so I’m all about going forward,” she said.
On issues, she said the police reform legislation passed last year “is really helpful,” but added that there can always be more done to address problems it seeks to correct. “There is always work to be done when it comes to justice, when it comes to addressing what have been problematic scenarios, inequalities, disparities, things that aren’t working,” she said.
She refused to say whether Baker is right to insist that there be no return to remote learning for K-12 students despite the recent COVID surge. “There are any number of ways for people to second-guess decisions made by governors, mayors during this time. I will say that what I think should continue to guide us is science,” said Healey.
Asked whether she would peg herself as an “uber progressive” in the mold of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, whose insurgent 2018 campaign against an incumbent fellow Democrat she endorsed, Healey said, “I’ll leave that to others to characterize my record.” But she went on to cite her progressive bona fides on everything from “fighting systemic racism” to pushing for more affordable health care. “We can and should apply the equity lens to everything we do,” said Healey.Healey was asked about the poor track record Massachusetts attorneys general have had in running for governor and what distinguishes her from previous AGs. Staying true to her carefully calibrated responses, she wasn’t about to take the bait and tout qualities she might have that were lacking in her predecessors, many of whom Healey says she is in regular contact with.
“I’ll leave that to others,” said the one-time point guard who was co-captain of the Harvard women’s basketball team. “I’m probably the shortest that’s ever run.”