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Healey inches toward historic first in Massachusetts as progressives get steamrolled

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Healey inches toward historic first in Massachusetts as progressives get steamrolled

Although progressive activists are cheering the likelihood of shattering several glass ceilings in November, their candidates for secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor lost.

Massachusetts Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey speaks at the annual Greater Boston Labor Council breakfast.

Massachusetts Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey speaks at the annual Greater Boston Labor Council breakfast at the Park Plaza Hotel on September 5, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. | Scott Eisen/Getty Images for SEIU

By LISA KASHINSKY

09/07/2022 11:29 AM EDT

BOSTON — Alaska. Oklahoma. Texas. Arizona. Kansas. Iowa. They’ve all beat Massachusetts — which prides itself on its progressivism — to electing a female governor.

But Massachusetts is now poised to join the club, and make more history along the way — one of several big results from Tuesday’s primaries, which also saw the Democratic Party’s activist left fail in a bid to elevate its candidates.

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Attorney General Maura Healey is the overwhelming favorite in a general-election matchup that pits the progressive prosecutor, who burnished her profile by repeatedly suing former President Donald Trump’s administration, against Geoff Diehl, a conservative backed by the former president. Massachusetts is one of Democrats’ best hopes to flip a governorship this fall while Diehl’s nomination fuels concerns about Republican electability in the region as New Hampshire voters cast ballots in their primary next week.

Healey, if she wins, would also be the state’s first openly gay female governor. And she will run for governor on a two-woman ticket with Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who cruised through her three-way Democratic primary for the No. 2 spot on Tuesday — setting up Massachusetts as one of three states that may elect women to both offices this year at the same time. In Arkansas, Republicans nominated Sarah Huckabee Sanders for governor and Leslie Rutledge for lieutenant governor. And in Ohio, Democrats are running Nan Whaley and Cheryl Stephens.

“With your help, for the first time, Massachusetts will elect the first governor and lieutenant governor on an all-woman ticket,” Driscoll told supporters after declaring victory Tuesday night. “That’s right — not one, but two women in the corner office.”

Further down the ballot, former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell would become the first Black woman elected attorney general if she defeats Republican Jay McMahon in November. Campbell and Rayla Campbell, a Republican running a long-shot campaign for secretary of state against seven-term Democratic incumbent Bill Galvin, said they made history Tuesday night as the first Black women nominees for statewide office in Massachusetts.

Treasurer Deb Goldberg is unopposed in her reelection bid. And state Sen. Diana DiZoglio is one step closer to the auditor’s office after defeating her Democratic primary rival, Chris Dempsey, on Tuesday.

“It is kind of stunning that, despite our progressive reputation, Massachusetts has never elected a woman governor and we have never had women really set to lead the commonwealth across the highest offices,” Amanda Lee, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which advocates for women in politics, said in an interview. “This is a major turning point.”

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But heated general-election battles will need to be fought first. Diehl’s victory over more moderate Republican Chris Doughty tees up the gubernatorial contest to be a referendum on Trump’s legacy in a state that twice handed him some of his biggest defeats.

And the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts is littered with losses after Tuesday’s primaries. While they cheer the likelihood of shattering several glass ceilings in November, progressive activists who won major victories in recent years with Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Sen. Ed Markey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu are smarting after their statewide candidates fell short.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, who ran to Healey’s left in a battle between two progressives, dropped out of the Democratic primary in June. Quentin Palfrey, who won the state party’s endorsement for attorney general, ended up exiting the race a week before the primary to back Andrea Campbell. Three other candidates backed by major progressive groups — Dempsey, state Rep. Tami Gouveia for lieutenant governor and Tanisha Sullivan for secretary of state — all lost Tuesday night.

They generally lacked either campaign cash, name recognition in a low-interest primary, slick outreach operations, or all three. Chang-Díaz proved unable to compete with the near-universal recognition Healey, a two-term attorney general, had with Democratic primary voters or her massive campaign coffer. Healey entered the general election with more than $4.7 million.

Palfrey, despite being the state Democratic Party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, trailed in polling against Andrea Campbell, who was coming off a third-place finish in last year’s Boston mayoral race, and Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor attorney and former U.S. Senate candidate who poured $9.3 million of her own money into her campaign. Sullivan and Gouveia never advertised on television.

“We’ve had candidates in recent years who’ve done a lot of really great progressive agenda-setting, but also spent a lot of time laying their groundwork,” Jonathan Cohn, policy director for Progressive Massachusetts, said in an interview. “One of the problems this cycle is there aren’t that many candidates who have done that.”

To be clear, Healey is a progressive — just not one who’s as far left as some activists in Massachusetts wanted.

But Cohn and other progressives say they’ll take Healey if it means retaking the corner office from Republicans who have held it for the better part of 30 years and breaking some barriers along the way.

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