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Ending months of speculation, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has entered the open race for governor.
The Democrat formally launched her campaign on Thursday, making her the third member of her party seeking election to the state’s highest office. State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Harvard professor Danielle Allen both launched campaigns last year.
Healey, 50, has built a reputation as a progressive prosecutor for her track record of court challenges against an array of industries and institutions, from opioid manufacturers and the e-cigarette giant, Juul, to the former Trump Administration.
The New Hampshire-born and one time professional basketball point guard’s layup this election centers on strengthening the Massachusetts economy in the wake of COVID-19.
“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 her announcement video. “We’ll continue with what’s working and fix what’s not. We’ll get our economy back on track and bring job training to every part of our state so that everyone can share in our growth.”
Speaking to reporters in East Boston Thursday morning, Healey indicated, if elected, she plans to dial in on the commonwealth’s rising cost of living, with priorities on workforce development and making child care programs more affordable.
“So many people are experiencing high cost of living, whether it’s in health care, housing, even transit, gasoline, you name it right now, and that’s something that we’ve got to deal with,” Healey said. “I recognize there’s monetary policy that the federal government is going to control, but there are actually levers and things that we can do as a state to better address that situation.
“But job one will be making sure this economy is back on track,” she added.
Healey made history in 2014 as the nation’s first openly gay attorney general. If elected governor, she would once again break barriers to be the first openly gay candidate to serve as the state’s top elected official.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced last month he would not seek a third term.
Geoff Diehl, a former GOP state representative from Whitman, announced his run for governor last summer and has already picked up an endorsement from former president Donald Trump. Diehl launched an unsuccessful challenge against Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018.
Healey had long been considered a potential Democratic frontrunner in the gubernatorial contest. But the wait until the arrival of her official announcement raised doubts whether she was committed to seeking the job, especially after it became clear Massachusetts would see a wide-open race with Baker’s departure.
Allen, in a statement on Thursday, appeared to take aim at Healey’s seemingly slow-to-announce approach and her status as one of the state’s top-ranking incumbents.
“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,” Allen said. “Every single day, in every community in Massachusetts, people are struggling with the impacts of these challenges. So status quo is not an option. We need a fresh perspective that can see beyond the politics and start bringing us together to build solutions.
“I’m in this race — and I’ve been in it for a year — to make sure Massachusetts has a real choice,” she added.
Chang-Diaz, in a tweet, said she and Healey have “differing records on priorities and governing” but she welcomes the attorney general to the “ongoing conversation we’ve been having across our state.”
“Our state needs a Governor who will prioritize true racial justice in our public safety systems, take urgent action on climate change, and close the wealth divide to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” Chang-Diaz wrote. “To do that, we must build a movement across age, race, class, and faith to elect a governor who’s shown they’ll take on tough fights for change, even when it’s not politically convenient.
“I’m that person, but I welcome the attorney general to make her case to Bay Staters as well,” she said.
Asked about when she decided to run, Healey said that she couldn’t remember the exact moment. The attorney general also sidestepped questions about whether she would be running if Baker had sought a third term, at one point responding, “That is so rear view right now.”
“Have a look at my record,” Healey said, when asked what she would say to voters who think she already had a chance to change the status quo over the past seven years. “I mean, I think that’s what people have to do. They have to hear my words. They have to look at what I’ve done. They have to look at what I say that I would do. And I’ll let that, in some way speak, for itself.”
Healey enters the race with a formidable statewide network that began rumbling to life again on Thursday.
Just hours after her campaign announcement video went live, Teamsters Local 25, with its 12,000 members, backed Healey, citing a “long history of working with our union and fighting for our members.”
“During these challenging times, Massachusetts needs a strong, tested leader who will put people over politics while also leveraging our competitive advantage to protect and create jobs,” Local 25 President Sean O’Brien said in a statement. “Maura is a champion for our members who isn’t afraid to fight greedy corporations who refuse to respect workers. Teamsters Local 25 is proud to support her as our next governor.”
The Democratic Attorneys General Association also came out with support for Healey, who the association described as a “tenacious fighter.”
“From taking on gun violence and domestic abusers, to prosecuting predatory lenders and taking on the entrenched special interests, to holding former President Trump accountable for his dangerous and lawless behavior, AG Healey has never backed down from a tough fight in Massachusetts and around the country,” DAGA co-chairs Aaron Ford, of Nevada, and Kathy Jennings, of Delaware, said in a statement.
Healey also joins the race with more than $3.6 million in her campaign war chest – far more than her primary challengers. Last month, Allen reported $370,401 on hand, while Chang-Diaz recorded $248,964, records show.
Raised in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, Healey was the oldest of five children of a single mother. (She also touted her family’s North Shore ties to the Newburyport area on Thursday.)
She attended Harvard College where she was the captain of the women’s basketball team before entering a professional basketball career in Austria. She eventually returned to Massachusetts, earned a law degree from Northeastern University, and became a civil rights attorney.
The Boston resident told reporters on Thursday she didn’t grow up with ambitions to be a politician. Rather, she wanted to be an attorney “to help people and try to do some good,” she said.
“For me, the things that I learned as an athlete, about teamwork, about determination, about just firing through difficult times and challenges and bouncing back, about setting goals, having vision, achieving, these are things that fuel me to this day,” she said.
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