Sonia Chang-Díaz, a seven-term Jamaica Plain state senator and a vocal critic of the Baker administration’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, said Monday she is seriously considering a run for governor, making her the first currently elected Democrat to publicly eye a campaign.
Chang-Díaz, who turns 43 on Wednesday, has been a longtime advocate for school funding reform and last year helped negotiate the Legislature’s sweeping policing bill, elevating her into some of Beacon Hill’s fiercest policy fights.
The only woman of color currently serving in the 40-member Senate, she confirmed in a statement Monday that she’s weighing a campaign, saying the state needs a leader “who’ll run toward problems, not away from them.”
“Families across Massachusetts are struggling to make rent, stay safe, and give their kids a brighter future,” Chang-Díaz said. “The crises now boiling over in our state — economic, public health, and racial justice — make it absolutely clear we need someone in the corner office who feels the same urgency working people do. . . That’s why I’m seriously considering running for governor.”
Chang-Díaz is at least the third Democrat to launch or publicly consider running for governor in 2022, when Republican Governor Charlie Baker must decide whether he’ll seek a third four-year term.
Former state senator Ben Downing last month announced he is running, and Danielle Allen, a Harvard University professor, said in December she was exploring a potential campaign, her first for public office. Attorney General Maura Healey has repeatedly stoked speculation about her own plans, though she has yet to say whether she’ll seek reelection next year or run for another seat.
Chang-Díaz, a former Jamaica Plain schoolteacher and the daughter of an astronaut, first won her Second Suffolk seat in 2008 after unseating Dianne Wilkerson. In doing so, she became the first Latina elected to the chamber, where she now chairs the Legislature’s newly created joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion and heads marijuana policy for the Senate.
She has in recent months been among the most vocal proponents of ensuring more equity in the state’s vaccine distribution plans, including filing legislation that would, among several changes, direct Baker to appoint a director of COVID-19 vaccination equity and outreach.
In February, she likened the state’s vaccine sign-up process to a raffle, where those with more time and reliable Internet access to hunt for slots have more “tickets” to win.
“You could not find a more textbook case study of structural racism,” she said during a legislative oversight hearing.
Chang-Díaz had served as a longtime chairwoman of the Legislature’s education committee until 2019, when the newly elected Senate President Karen E. Spilka removed her from the panel as the Legislature restarted work on landmark legislation that would reshape the state’s school funding formula.
Talks on the bill, later dubbed the Student Opportunity Act, had fallen apart in the waning hours of the previous legislative session. At the time, several groups raised concerns about removing Chang-Díaz from the committee, though both Spilka and the senator said she would continue to play a role.