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When she officially embarked on her campaign for governor in January, Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey gave voters this reason to give her a shot: “Have a look at my record.”
Indeed the state’s top prosecutor has an extensive track record as the “people’s lawyer” since she was first elected in 2014.
In earning her progressive reputation, Healey has helmed legal battles against powerful interests such as opioid manufacturers and has railed against issues like consumer fraud in Massachusetts.
But Healey’s prosecutorial prowess may best be known these days for her steadfast challenges of the policies by former President Donald Trump’s administration, which she took to court nearly 100 times.
In most cases, she emerged victorious.
Now she’s looking to churn out another win against Trump through the political proxy war of sorts the state’s Nov. 8 gubernatorial election has become.
Healey, along with running mate, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, is squaring off against the Trump-backed Geoff Diehl, the former Republican state representative, and his party’s lieutenant governor pick, Leah Allen.
In their first debate a few weeks ago, Healey asserted as governor, Diehl would usher in “Trumpism” to the Bay State, positioning herself as the alternative more in line with liberal voter values in Massachusetts.
“The choice in this election couldn’t be more clear,” Healey told Boston.com recently. “The Healey-Driscoll Administration will be focused on delivering results and will always protect abortion access and personal freedom.”
Earlier this month, this publication reached out to Healey’s campaign as well as Diehl’s campaign, with a request for interviews to be held over Zoom calls.
Both campaigns declined requests due to scheduling conflicts, but offered instead written responses from their candidates to questions sent over email.
Here’s what Healey had to say about housing and affordability issues, making the MBTA safer, Massachusetts in a post-Roe v. Wade America, and why Diehl’s education reform plan “goes too far.”
Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.
Boston.com: You’ve been an attorney throughout your career. What about moving to the governor’s office, at this time, spoke to you?
Healey: I’m running for Governor because I believe in Massachusetts. We have the best people, innovation and know-how in the world. I know so many in our state are hurting right now, and I want to be a Governor who harnesses Massachusetts’ tremendous resources to drive our competitiveness, grow our economy and make life more affordable. I want Massachusetts to be a place of optimism, a place where we reject partisanship and division, and where we come together to get things done that make a real difference for people.
You have made affordability a primary focus of your pitch to voters and the rising cost of housing is, of course, among the expenses Massachusetts residents are feeling most. Your housing plan calls for zoning reforms to allow more housing at greater densities. How do you sell this idea at the local level? What incentives can you provide to cities and towns who are reluctant to make these changes?
Mayor Driscoll and I recognize that one size does not fit all, and we will help municipalities be creative in their solutions to tackle housing, while we also build a larger regional and statewide strategy. For example, we’ve committed to implementing the Housing Choice Initiative to its fullest extent by creating incentives for communities to actually build multi-family projects. This includes investing in communities that encourage growth and providing ongoing technical assistance to municipalities to help them comply with the law.
What does rent stabilization look like for the Healey-Driscoll Administration? Would you seek to change state law on rent control?
The Healey-Driscoll Administration will empower communities to enact local policies that best address their own, unique housing challenges, while encouraging regional cooperation and technical assistance. This may include rent stabilization policies in certain communities that feel it’s the right solution for them.
This question was submitted by one of our readers. Rick Lamagna, of West Springfield, asked, “What are you doing about the increase of 64% for electricity and 36% increase in natural gas proposals? How do you expect residents to live on a fixed income? I’m retired and 65.”
Thank you for the question, Rick. I understand how devastating these rate hikes will be, especially as so many are already struggling with high costs. My Office urged the Department of Public Utilities to find ways to lessen the impact on energy bills and find long-term solutions to prevent customers from seeing rates like these ever again. We’ve been in constant contact with the utilities, DOER, DPU and other stakeholders to discuss ways that we can alleviate this burden and help customers pay their bills this winter. I also support efforts to include federal heating assistance for consumers, waiving the Jones Act to allow gas deliveries in winter and cutting taxes to make life more affordable for people.
Another question we received from an anonymous reader: “What would you do to reduce the cost of houses so that the many students who come here can afford to stay and raise families, and those who grew up here can afford to stay or return after college?”
I want Massachusetts to be a place where everyone can afford to live, work and build their futures. Mayor Driscoll and I have a plan to take on housing affordability by preserving existing supply, ramping up production, tackling homelessness and harnessing housing as a tool for economic mobility. We need housing that fits the needs of our residents and helps us recruit and keep a talented workforce. That includes setting new, more aggressive production goals that build on Housing Choices – including spurring development of new units around MBTA stations – preserving existing housing stock by expanding programs to help owners maintain and update properties and expanding down payment, closing cost and rental assistance programs for first-time homebuyers.
Your opponent, Republican Geoff Diehl, claims your energy policy will “bankrupt our households.” How would you assure residents your push to transition Massachusetts to sustainable energy sources doesn’t come at their expense?
The cost of inaction on addressing the climate crisis is enormous, but the return on investment from swiftly transitioning to clean energy will be enormous. My office conducted a study several years ago finding that embracing energy efficiency will have significantly more cost savings for consumers than fossil fuels. And we’ll create new, good-paying jobs while we do it – building a climate corridor from the Berkshires to New Bedford.
In Boston, residents and city leaders are still feeling the impact of the region’s opioid crisis, most acutely through the humanitarian crisis in the area known as Mass. and Cass. They have long said there is a need to de-centralize recovery services and have called on other communities to step up. If elected governor, would you seek to do that? If so, how?
We need a multidisciplinary approach that puts public health and safety first. It starts with funding – which is why my office has worked hard to make sure that every dollar from our opioid litigation goes to support treatment, prevention and recovery efforts. We should also expand multidisciplinary crisis response teams to respond to certain emergency calls, including those involving behavioral health and homelessness, so that we can get people into safe and secure housing.
What should Massachusetts be doing now, at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic?
My administration will build on the work of the Baker administration and have the strongest team of experts to follow the most updated COVID-19 data and make decisions rooted in science and public health. Our primary goals will be to keep our state open for business, our kids in schools, and our communities healthy.
With the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, issues surrounding abortion rights have been returned to the states. Massachusetts has already codified reproductive rights and abortion access, but are there areas where the commonwealth remains vulnerable? Are there any changes or updates to the current law you would seek, if elected governor?
Massachusetts must remain a beacon of hope for all those seeking care. We also need to make sure our health care providers have the support, training and resources they need, as well as continue to protect them from civil and criminal liability for doing their jobs. While the Healey-Driscoll Administration will always protect access to abortion and reproductive health care, my opponent cheered the overturning of Roe and has supported banning abortion and jailing providers.
On the MBTA, we received this question from Patrick S., a reader from South Boston: “How will you leverage state resources to fix ongoing issues with the T and support future service reliability and expansion?”
Thank you, Patrick. We won’t have a functioning economy without a functioning transportation system. The next Governor needs to position Massachusetts to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our infrastructure. There are billions in federal infrastructure funding available to the states, and I will convene a task force whose sole focus will be to compete with other states and pursue the greatest amount of federal funding possible. Public-private partnerships will also be critical. I speak with business leaders all the time about their commitment to this issue, and I want to bring them to the table to get it done.
Do you regularly ride on the MBTA or take the T?
I do occasionally.
Over the summer, the Federal Transit Administration issued a critical report on its safety inspection of the MBTA’s T system. Do you believe the T is safe to ride, and how would you work to make the T safer for passengers?
Safety will be the top priority of the Healey-Driscoll Administration. We will appoint a Transportation Safety Chief to audit and oversee safety protocols at the MBTA and also require regular public reporting so there is accountability for maintaining a safe system. We’ll be focused on recruiting and retaining the best talent – working with our high schools, vocational technical schools and community colleges to create a pipeline for the next generation of transportation workers.
Your opponent has released a plan that seeks to give parents more of a say in decisions made regarding their children’s education, including by requiring informed consent for “controversial curriculum subjects.” What is your response to that? Do parents deserve more input in these matters?
I was raised by a single mom and later my stepdad, and their involvement in the strong education I got made all the difference. Parents have an important role to play in their kids’ education, along with educators and school administrators. But my opponent’s plan is part of a national trend that has led to things like book banning. That goes too far.
We received this question from a reader, Reed E. of Needham: “Recently, the FBI released its annual hate crime statistics report, which gives valuable insight into the complex social relations in our country. The results showed that Jews, as an ethnic and religious group, constituted almost 60% of all reported hate crimes. On this year’s anniversary of 9/11, signs were displayed above Route 1 in Saugus which blamed Jews for that terrible day. Knowing this, along with the prevalence of conspiracy theories that link Jews to the spread of COVID-19, what will you do to address and combat antisemitism in Massachusetts, and around our country, if you are elected to the governor’s office?”
I have a long record of protecting civil rights and I stand with the Jewish community and will always stand up to antisemitism. As Governor, I will provide additional resources for training and education in our schools and communities, and for law enforcement to combat discrimination and racism.
You are no stranger to voters. Many of them have voted for you for attorney general. Why should they vote for you for governor?
I’m asking the people of Massachusetts to vote for me for Governor because I will bring people together, make our state more affordable and grow our economy. That means cutting taxes, building more housing, making transportation safe and reliable and so much more. The choice in this election couldn’t be more clear. The Healey-Driscoll Administration will be focused on delivering results and will always protect abortion access and personal freedom.
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