Are voters ready to give Dems total control of Beacon Hill?
Over the last 30 years, voters in Massachusetts have been remarkably consistent, electing moderate Republicans as governor to serve as a counterbalance to the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
The only exception to that trend was the election of Deval Patrick in 2006. He ran for an open seat when Mitt Romney chose not to seek reelection and ended up serving for two terms – defeating Kerry Healey to win a first term and Charlie Baker to win a second. Both Healey and Baker moved to the right in those campaigns and lost. Baker adopted a much more centrist campaign in 2014 and won; his mix of political pragmatism and fiscal incrementalism has made him one of the most popular governors in the nation.
The race for governor in 2022 is still taking shape (Baker, for example, hasn’t said whether he will run again), but the early trendlines suggest Democrats believe a different dynamic is in play this time around. Rather than adopting centrist positions, the three announced Democratic candidates – Harvard professor Danielle Allen, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain, and former state senator Ben Downing – are all campaigning on platforms that call for a much larger and expensive role for state government in daily life.
Chang-Diaz on Tuesday came out in support of extending the K-12 public school system in both directions – adding publicly funded preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds and making public higher education free for all Massachusetts residents, with additional money to cover fees for living and textbook expenses for low-income students.
Allen and Downing would not go quite as far. They both support a massive state investment in preschool education, but not a state takeover of the system. They also support making higher education debt-free – which means anyone who needs financial aid to avoid having to borrow money would get it. Downing says he would embrace free public higher education down the road, while Allen says she would continue to collect tuition from those who can afford to pay.
As Chang-Diaz laid down a bold marker on education, Downing on Tuesday unveiled an aggressive and expensive transportation proposal. He promised to make all MBTA and regional transit authority buses fare free by the end of his first year in office and the MBTA entirely fare free by the end of his first term. He also pledged to electrify all commuter rail lines and launch East-West commuter rail service by 2030.
For the Democrats, the revenues to cover these program expansions would come from higher taxes and fees, primarily on the wealthy. All three Democrats support passage of a constitutional amendment coming before voters next year that would impose a surtax on incomes over $1 million. Chang-Diaz backs a new tax on large college endowments. Downing favors an increase in the state gas tax, implementation of congestion pricing on roadways, and higher fees on Uber and Lyft rides.
Baker has taken heat for not moving fast enough to address many of the state’s challenges, but his popularity among voters has remained high. Democrats in the race for governor are betting that voters want action now and are willing to give one party the reins of power on Beacon Hill.
Dems seek big change: In the race for governor, stark differences are emerging on early education and higher education, with Democrats favoring expensive and transformative changes. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, for example, is pushing programs that would create a single-payer, publicly funded system for pre-school and make public higher education available at no charge. Read more.
At-home tests: As COVID test kits for home use fly off store shelves, concerns about the accuracy of tracking the disease pick up momentum. Read more.
Plug the holes: Sen. Ed Markey and Myechia Minter-Jordan of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health says it’s time to plug the dental, hearing, and vision gaps in Medicare coverage. Read more.
Point-counterpoint: Rep. Natalie Blais of Sunderland and John Stout of MassPIRG say rural transportation needs must be addressed with a fix-it-first approach to roadways rather than building new urban highways like the I-90 Allston interchange. Read more. James Aloisi, the former state transportation secretary, balks at some of the claims in the Blais-Stout article, specifically the idea that the I-90 Allston project isn’t a fix-it-first example. Read more.
Rain, rain, rain: Russ Schumacher of Colorado State University explains why Hurricane Ida brought record rainfall to the Northeast. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Michael Silverman previews the options the state faces if it legalizes sports betting by taking a tour of the mid-Atlantic jurisdictions that allow wagers on games. (Boston Globe)
The entire city of Lawrence personnel department is placed on paid administrative leave after the outgoing director complains of corruption and retaliation. (Eagle-Tribune)
New Bedford City Councilor Hugh Dunn, who is awaiting a hearing on charges related to a drunken driving incident in May, got a little loose lipped recently about the ordeal at a local watering hole in earshot of a reporter. (New Bedford Light)
A new elementary school in Swampscott has a lot of support, but it would require an eminent domain taking of land owned by a church. (Daily Item)
A member of the South Hadley School Committee resigns amid an online attack against him for supporting a mask requirement in town schools. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Fall River has its first female veterans agent, Marine veteran Micaila Britto. (Herald News)
China is confronting an issue that its communist governing philosophy would have seemed to preclude: Enormous wealth inequality. (New York Times)
The Globe looks at how the five major mayoral candidates in Boston would address climate change, with some getting better grades than others from experts.
All three candidates running for mayor of Salem are supportive of efforts to bring offshore wind development to the city. (Salem News)
The family foundation of billionaire investor Gerald Chan will donate $175 million to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which will be renamed in the family’s honor. (Boston Globe)
Artists with space at a Somerville armory building recently acquired by the city through an eminent domain taking say municipal officials are now threatening to kick them out by the end of the year. (Boston Herald)
More than 200 medical journals issue a joint statement saying climate change is the greatest threat to public health. (NPR)
The first two parents to go to trial, rather than accept plea deals, in the Varsity Blues college admission scandal head to federal court in Boston today for the start of proceedings. (Boston Globe)
A Miami Herald editorial slams Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for his latest comments on COVID-19 vaccines, calling him “a profile in selfishness.”PASSINGS
Actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his role as Omar on The Wire, dies at 54. (Mashable)