On Nov. 8, Maura Healey made history as the first woman and first openly gay person to win election to the governor’s office in Massachusetts. Nearly a month later, what she plans to do with the power that goes with the history-making result remains a mystery — just like her place of residence.
The incoming governor has said little about her priorities and what will be different in a post-Charlie Baker era of governing, other than noting that the microphones will be set lower, to adjust for her much shorter height. Fellow Democrats also say they remain clueless about her agenda, as well as who will help her carry it out. That leaves the politically connected in a post-election state of high frustration. All they want for Christmas is a road map to the new administration. Who‘s in? Who’s out? Who should they be going to for jobs and policy asks?
“I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t figure it out at all. I haven’t heard a single word about a single potential cabinet secretary. No one’s been excluded. No one’s been included,” said a longtime Democratic consultant who prefers to remain nameless as he fondly recalls the transition buzz that surrounded new administrations going back five decades. So far, the Healey transition has been virtually buzz-free, leaving the political world with little to do but scour the transition committee that Healey announced on Nov. 18 for hints and signals of what’s to come.
The transition chair is Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll, who is widely viewed as a key player in the incoming administration. According to MassLive, Driscoll, the current mayor of Salem, told attendees at a recent Massachusetts Association of Health Plans conference, “We want to avoid theater, no laundry list. We want work lists.”
A no-drama transition is a worthy goal, but plots and subplots about Driscoll’s role and influence remain hot topics for speculation, since she comes to the job with the added intrigue of having been backed by a super PAC with ties to Baker. Given that connection, along with Healey’s ongoing lovefest with Baker, what does that mean for members of the current administration? Could some survive and even flourish? For example, before he leaves office, Baker plans to name an interim general manager for the MBTA. On one hand, that gives Healey time to do an in-depth search for a successor to outgoing GM Steve Poftak. But doing the job on an interim basis could also give Baker’s pick an advantage in the process. Is that the secret plan? If that happens, how much improvement can T riders expect from a deeply flawed public transit system? As cochair of the “How we get around” committee, Tom Glynn is another name on the transition team that is catching attention. Glynn has a wide range of government experience, including stints as general manager of the T and CEO of Massport. After announcing his retirement as head of the Harvard Allston Land Co. — a subsidiary of Harvard that is spearheading a big development plan in Allston — Glynn is currently an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School. How much influence will he have when it comes to shaping transportation policy and choosing who will oversee it?
Up against a weak Republican gubernatorial candidate who did not press his opponent for details, Healey ran a campaign of mostly generic promises, such as pledges to address housing affordability and somehow fix the T. At some point soon, she will have to say exactly what she wants to do and choose people to do it. She doesn’t owe that solely to Democratic insiders who are interested in job and lobbying opportunities. She owes it to all the people of Massachusetts. Of course, as a two-term attorney general, she knows that.
Healey’s victory was declared minutes after the polls closed, and she ultimately won with 63 percent of the vote. More than 1.5 million people voted for her, which is a big show of confidence. She deserves time and space to get her administration off to a strong start. But has there ever been so much mystery surrounding the goals and plans of an incoming governor? Have such vague answers to policy questions about tax reform, homelessness and addiction, or the future of the T ever been accepted from a previous governor-elect?
It’s time to end the mystery, Governor-elect Healey. Tell us what you have in mind for Massachusetts now that you made history.