Will she or won’t she?
That’s the question everyone has been asking about Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey: Will she or won’t she take the plunge and run for governor?
In the seven weeks since Republican Governor Charlie Baker announced he wouldn’t seek a third term, Healey hasn’t rushed into the vacuum. Her seeming hesitance has created some uncertainty about her intentions — but that will end soon.
“She has made up her mind to do it,” one confidant told me. “Now it’s just a matter of hitting the launch button.”
Baker’s impending departure has left Healey, a well-known and well-liked statewide figure, the strong front-runner. That status — and her $3.6 million war chest — has given her the luxury of time, and she’s taken that to consult with knowledgeable people about how to run a smart, effective, mandate-building campaign. I’m told to expect a political effort that focuses on the state economy, on the provision of quality, affordable day care, and on smart regional approaches to climate change.
With the Democrats’ delegate-selection process starting early next month, look for her announcement as soon as this week.
Now, as a general rule, attorneys general often make unconvincing candidates for governor, at least in Massachusetts. Still, the view here is that Healey will prove an exception to that rule. She has a long string of pro-consumer accomplishments, enjoys high visibility and high favorability, and has both a healthy political treasury and the ability to raise much more. Plus, she’s smart, charismatic, and usually sure-footed. Conservatives fume that she has lent her office to an array of Trump-thwarting national legal efforts, and gun absolutists abhor her, but that’s hardly going to hurt her in the Bay State.
One Democratic primary opponent, Danielle Allen, director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, has an impressive academic resume, but that’s seldom a compelling springboard for a candidacy. The other, state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, has, to put it politely, been somewhat underwhelming on Beacon Hill. With Healey in, it’s hard to see how the progressive Jamaica Plain lawmaker will find the running room needed to gain momentum.
But though Healey’s decision is the big news, it’s not the only development in the incipient governor’s race.
With Baker exiting, stage center, the question has been whether the Republican field will be left to former state representative and failed 2018 US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl.
Unlike Chang-Diaz, Diehl isn’t somewhat underwhelming. No indeed. He’s been underwhelming at warp-speed. Nevertheless, he has emerged as the favorite of the state’s Baker-loathing right-wing revanchists, who would rather control the skeletally-staffed Republican State Committee than back candidates who can actually win statewide office in the Commonwealth. With the help of irascible, rule-abusing chairman Jim Lyons, a far-right ideologue busy running the state party onto the reef of irrelevance, Diehl has gotten the endorsement of the coup-plotting former president.
But not before he did some sycophantic genuflection to Donald Trump’s arrant absurdity. During a July appearance on GBH’s “Greater Boston,” Diehl declared that he didn’t think the 2020 election had been stolen. Then, on Oct. 4, he reversed himself, declaring in a Facebook post: “Sadly, it has become clear as the audit results from Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania have come to light, that the 2020 election was rigged.”
In fact, there was never any real doubt the election was fair and absent systemic fraud, its results legitimate. Further, by the time of Diehl’s Facebook post, that should have been clear even to the kooky conspiracists. Indeed, Diehl’s dishonest declaration came a couple of weeks after the news that even the absurd Cyber Ninjas audit of the results from Maricopa Country, Ariz. — an effort on which the stolen-election set had placed such great hope — had concluded that, yes, Biden was the victor there. So why would Diehl say something so obviously ludicrous? Here’s a clue: The day after he dutifully toed the Big Lie line, Trump endorsed him for governor.
As weeks have gone by, it has seemed like Diehl, rarely mistaken for a politician with deep convictions, might be all the GOP was left with.
But now, Chris Doughty, a medium-deep-pocketed Wrentham businessman and investor, is weighing a GOP gubernatorial bid. The 59-year-old Harvard Business School graduate is said to be primarily concerned with economic matters, fiscal discipline, and high Massachusetts costs, and not with promoting Trumped-up nonsense or waging social-issues political combat.
One GOP insider says Doughty is “about 70 percent” there. One index of intent: He is working to assemble a campaign team as he moves closer to a decision.
Let’s hope he runs. In a state as sharp as Massachusetts, smart conservative voters badly need a primary alternative to cynical Trump toadyism.