There is little approaching drama in this year’s race for governor. The Democratic candidate, Attorney General Maura Healey, holds a commanding lead in fundraising, political support, and the polls, which currently have her up by more than 20 points. Her Republican rival, Geoff Diehl, a former state representative and the party’s US Senate nominee in 2018, has distinguished himself mainly by his inability to decide whether President Biden won fair and square in 2020. First he said Biden won. Then he said the election was stolen. And then the moment he won the Republican primary, he was talking about Biden as the winner again.
In a state dominated by Democrats, Diehl, though popular among his party’s base, has alienated the moderate wing tied to Governor Charlie Baker and been written off even by some conservatives. It doesn’t seem a fair fight, and we have no interest in trying to level the playing field: The Globe heartily endorses Healey to become the state’s next governor.
Diehl’s opportunistic plasticity about Donald Trump’s Big Lie might be reason enough to endorse Healey. But there are many more reasons to support Healey, a former Harvard point guard who is seeking to become Massachusetts’s first woman, and openly gay, elected governor.
In her two terms as attorney general, Healey, 51, proved an aggressive legal advocate for the state, initiating litigation to protect the rights of immigrants, consumers, and LGBTQ people. She led a nationwide suit that won $148 million from Uber for failing to disclose a major data breach and was among the first state attorneys general to sue the Sackler family over abusive opioid marketing by their company, Purdue Pharma. She brought scores of lawsuits to thwart the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back environmental protections.
Her agenda as a candidate for governor shows a clear-eyed sense of the Commonwealth’s major problems. She has wisely placed affordable housing near the top of that agenda, vowing to assist lower-income and elderly tenants, make state land available for development, spur construction near MBTA stations, and appoint a Cabinet-level housing secretary — all good ideas.
She has also pledged to continue her efforts on the climate front, calling for Massachusetts to reach 100 percent clean electricity by 2030 and to “electrify everything” — homes, apartment buildings, businesses, and mass transit — as quickly as possible. She would invest in creating green jobs and push the state’s community colleges and technical schools to train workers skilled in jobs like installing heat pumps.
Among her other priorities: making mass transit function properly, improving the city and state’s troubled public schools, and cutting taxes for lower income families.
On the campaign trail, she exudes an earthy charisma, tough-mindedness and a pragmatic ethos in the mold of Baker — whom she calls a “valued partner.” And though she is not being pressed to win votes in rural or Western Massachusetts, she speaks thoughtfully about the need to help small cities and rural communities battle substance abuse, care for the homeless, and recruit essential workers, particularly teachers and police officers.
Strong qualities all. And yet something has been missing in this colorless campaign season.
Healey, whose opponents in the Democratic primary dropped out of the race, has faced little real opposition. Pressured from neither the left nor the right, she has been able to mostly coast from photo op to photo op: buying sneakers, shooting hoops with high school teams, and wearing hard hats while touring housing construction sites. All are legitimate campaign events. But they do not offer the kind of contentious debate that can sharpen a candidate by forcing them to defend, clarify, or even amend campaign positions.
Healey bristles at the idea that she hasn’t been pushed to define her policies, noting that she talks with voters daily. In an interview with the Globe editorial page, she also pointed to lengthy policy statements on her campaign website, calling them every bit as detailed as anything Baker or former Governor Deval Patrick produced in their campaigns. There’s been “no ducking or weaving” she said, with some heat in her voice.
Fair enough. Yet when she was asked to explain how she would achieve some policy goal — including how she would pressure balky municipalities to allow affordable housing construction or fix the Department of Correction — she answered with an “I’m not sure” or “That’s something I’m going to have to look into.”
One more thing has been missing from her campaign: A sense of bold ambition for solving seemingly intractable problems like failing schools, a dodgy transit system, the affordable housing crisis, or the growing number of homeless people.
To be sure, these are huge problems, and putting a meaningful dent in any one of them would be an important achievement. What Healey has put forward on each has been sensible, pragmatic, Baker-like. We support her approaches as important starting points.
Consider the alternative. With victory all but assured, Healey could ride into office with an extraordinary wave of voter support, a super majority in both houses of the Legislature, unspent billions in federal pandemic aid, and an economy that is still producing tax surpluses, warning signs of a recession notwithstanding. If ever there were a moment for sweeping plans to solve massive problems, she is virtually assured to stand astride of one come January.
In the Globe interview, Healey hinted at the possibilities herself. “This would be the time to just [have a] blank slate. Let’s see. Come with ideas. We should have the capacity and the creativity and the desire to consider all of that,” she said. “There may be some crazy ideas that come forward that don’t make any sense. Or who knows? There may be some ideas that, ‘yeah, you know what, hadn’t thought of that. We should give that a try.’ ”
That’s the spirit. Why not show more of it in the final weeks of this desultory campaign season?
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly identified Geoff Diehl. He is a former state representative. It has been updated.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us @GlobeOpinion.