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‘A changing of the guard?’ Massachusetts’ 2022 election cycle could be primed for history, turnover

Massachusetts’s 2022 state election cycle is quietly humming to life.
Massachusetts’s 2022 state election cycle is quietly humming to life.Globe Staff/Associated Press

A blockbuster showdown for governor. A wide-open race to be the state’s top prosecutor. A primary between a secretary of state on the verge of history and a fellow Democrat trying to unseat him.

As summer unofficially dawns, each scenario is possible as Massachusetts’s 2022 state election cycle quietly hums to life. It’s greased by uncertainty, and fueling the potential for a gamut of history-making races and possibly, widespread change at the top of state government.

The prospects depend heavily on the decisions of the six statewide constitutional officers. Five, including Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Secretary of State William F. Galvin, have not said whether they’ll run again, and many in office remain undecided on whether to seek reelection, according to advisers and the officeholder themselves.

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The sixth — state Auditor Suzanne Bump — said last week she won’t run again, the first in what could be many dominoes to fall in the months ahead.

“I do think change is good. It’s hard, but it’s good,” said Bump, whose announcement that she will forgo seeking a fourth term created an open seat in the office for only the second time in 36 years. “The public is starting to demand more of people [in office]. And they are becoming increasingly willing to give younger people a chance.”

The current state of unpredictability has would-be candidates already feeling out plans. At least six sitting Democratic state senators have privately expressed interest in seeking a statewide seat, where incumbents rarely lose, and openings often draw a slate of hopefuls, party insiders say. Healey is widely viewed as a potential gubernatorial candidate, setting up the possibility of a head-to-head race with Baker, the two-term Republican.

And political operatives say a Democratic primary likely looms for secretary of state, regardless of whether Galvin runs for an eighth term.

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In all, there’s potential for up to five open seats among the statewide offices — turnover that would be unheard of over the last half-century and would mark a nearly complete reversal from 2018, when every incumbent won and ran. But perhaps just as likely, some political insiders warn, current officeholders could ultimately decide to run, win, and in the process, redefine what political longevity means in Massachusetts.

No governor, for example, has ever served three consecutive four-year terms. No secretary of state has served for more than 28 years. And no attorney general has sought, or won, a third term in nearly four decades.

Baker, Galvin, and Healey could accomplish all three, respectively, should they successfully seek reelection.

Still, Bump’s decision — while it may have whizzed by undetected for a wider public not attuned to a primary date 16 months away — created a political fascination with what’s possible next year.

“I thought, ‘Is this a bellwether for a changing of the guard?’” said Melvin Poindexter, a Democratic national committeeman. Poindexter pointed to the Boston mayoral race, where for the first time all six major candidates identify as a person of color and several have cut an image of “activist candidates,” he said.

“That’s been going on around the state, that question: Who’s the next generation?” Poindexter said. “You kind of look at [the mayor’s race] and say, ‘Is the same thing going to happen on the constitutional officer stage?’”

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While Republicans have won the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices in six of the last eight elections, Democrats have dominated the state’s other constitutional offices for decades. The last Republican to hold any of the four seats was in 1999, when Joseph Malone left the treasurer’s office, and the GOP hasn’t had a secretary of state or auditor in office since the 1940s.

It puts much of the focus on and jockeying within the Democratic Party’s deep bench looking to move up the ranks.

But the biggest question lies with Baker. The Republican, 64, has not said if he’ll run for a third consecutive term. If he chooses not to, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, 54, is widely expected to seek the GOP nomination, though conservative Republican Geoff Diehl is also weighing a primary bid.

“That’s something the lieutenant governor and I, and our families, are gonna talk about,” Baker said Friday of whether to run.

Democrats, meanwhile, aren’t waiting on Baker to make up his mind. Former state Senator Ben Downing announced his campaign in February, a full 19 months before the Democratic primary, and Danielle Allen, a Harvard University professor, is expected to make an announcement in the coming weeks after months of exploring her first run for elected office.

Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat, said in March she’s considering a campaign. Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, viewed in past cycles as a potential gubernatorial candidate, is not seeking reelection this fall and could also join the fray.

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Looming over the fledgling field is Healey, 50, the widely known Charlestown Democrat whom many party activists view as its most formidable option to retake the governor’s office — including if Baker opts to seek a third term.

The speculation she could forgo reelection to aim for the governor’s office in turn has sparked a flurry of behind-the-scenes intrigue for her current seat.

Boston city Councilor Lydia Edwards, an East Boston attorney and Democrat who was first elected in 2017, has signaled to others she’s interested in seeking the seat should it open, as has state Senator Eric P. Lesser, a Harvard Law graduate, Longmeadow Democrat and Obama White House alum, party insiders say. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan — whose office produced three of the last four attorneys general — may be also considering it, according to one person familiar with her thinking.

Several Democratic operatives also view Lesser as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor. His colleague, state Senator Adam G. Hinds of Pittsfield, said he’s been approached about running for statewide office, and that he’s giving serious consideration “to where I can be most effective.” A decision may not be imminent, however; Hinds and his wife welcomed their first child Thursday.

Four years ago, Galvin was the only one of the four Democratic constitutional officers to face a primary challenge, when he easily topped then-Boston city councilor Josh Zakim. During the 2018 race, Galvin, 70, hinted to The Boston Globe’s editorial board his current term could be his last, but the Brighton Democrat stressed he’s made no final decision.

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“It was not a Sherman declaration,” Galvin said in an interview. “In November, I’ll be able to give you a succinct answer. The election’s next year. If it were today, I probably would [run].”

State Senator Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, told the Globe that if Galvin doesn’t run, he’d seriously consider seeking the seat. Fellow Senator Rebecca L. Rausch, a Needham Democrat who has pushed to keep expanded mail-in voting, is widely regarded among political insiders as another potential candidate, and is thought to be weighing a bid even if Galvin seeks reelection.

“The climate seems to be that everybody has primaries,” Galvin said.

The announcement from Bump, 65, is quickly creating one. Eileen Duff, a Gloucester Democrat and a member of the Governor’s Council which vets judicial candidates, announced her campaign on Tuesday. Chris Dempsey, a transportation advocate, said he’s also weighing a run, and state Senator Diana DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, could also explore a campaign.

The incumbent constitutional officer many Democrats see as the most likely to run again is state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg.

The two-term Brookline Democrat opted against running for Congress last year, and has kept a similar fund-raising pace in 2021 as she did at this point four years ago. Several people close to the 67-year-old also said they’d be surprised if she didn’t seek another term, even if she hasn’t officially made a decision.

“I was just on a fund-raising call with her a couple weeks ago,” Phil Johnston, a former state Democratic Party chairman, said of Goldberg. “She certainly sounded like she was running again.”


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.