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Opinion
Our Opinion

Our Opinion: Maura Healey for Massachusetts governor

Gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey speaks to crowd

Gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey speaks during a July 19 campaign stop in Hotel Downstreet, 413 Bistro Patio, North Adams. 

Massachusetts is at a crossroads of sorts. Our state coffers swell with unprecedented revenue surplus, a hopeful sign of emerging stronger from the COVID era. We’re poised to continue being a national leader on environmental issues, and our ambitious but necessary renewable energy development goals synthesize with a strong tech sector to offer healthy 21st-century economic opportunity across the commonwealth.

On the other hand, there are tall barriers on the Bay State’s path to a brighter future: widespread affordability worries; population loss that has hit some regions like ours, rural and overlooked, disproportionately hard; the tough needle to thread of pursuing a laudable climate roadmap in a way that doesn’t excessively squeeze already struggling families; an opioid crisis that continues to claim far too many Massachusetts lives.

This unique moment for Massachusetts calls for a leader in the governor’s office who can leverage the state’s strengths to address these looming challenges and lead the commonwealth to the peaks of its potential while lifting up more its residents. That’s no easy task, but we believe Attorney General Maura Healey is the leader for the job.

Rumors of Ms. Healey plotting a gubernatorial run surfaced long before she announced one early this year when Gov. Charlie Baker announced he would not seek reelection. She’s had time to put together her plans and priorities if she wins office — and it appears she used her time wisely. When she spoke with The Eagle’s editorial board, it was refreshing to hear her rely more on concrete proposals than the culture-warring rhetoric that’s unfortunately become par for too much political discourse.

When she spoke about confronting the “affordability crisis,” she highlighted her plan to establish a new secretary of housing position and sharpen the state’s policymaking focus on a matter that looms large in working families’ budgets. The Democrat also said she strongly favors the tax breaks pitched earlier this year by the current Republican governor. In fact, Ms. Healey took a “yes, and” approach to tax reform, suggesting a per-child tax credit for Massachusetts families on top of Gov. Baker’s cuts.

On economic development, Ms. Healey’s “climate corridor” plan envisions a holistic approach to managing the state’s renewable energy goals and revving the tech sector’s engines. Such an approach could positively answer real questions about existing climate benchmarks’ potential impact on regional competitiveness.

It was particularly heartening to hear Ms. Healey mention, without prompting, challenges specific to Berkshire communities — and potential remedies. She flagged North Adams’ ailing public safety building and the need for the state to step up critical infrastructure aid to rural, less-populous corners of the commonwealth. She also flagged housing challenges in Pittsfield and North Adams specifically relating to blight and upkeep, wisely noting that rehab and preservation efforts are quick, dollars-wise ways to alleviate pressure on housing stock in many communities. Beacon Hill’s lack of attention on their constituents in the western part of the state has set the bar quite low, but we’re pleased at least to hear someone not just recognize but show some granular familiarity with our communities’ issues while seeking the Statehouse corner office.

Meanwhile, her running partner Kim Driscoll’s experience as mayor of Salem would hopefully inform a Healey administration’s ability to communicate and work with municipal officials across the commonwealth. Ms. Healey’s time in the Attorney General’s Office would also bring some obvious strengths to the table. She’s demonstrated the capacity to lead and manage a sizable public office, and the casework handled therein speaks to her experience and priorities on crucial issues, too. She’s been a champion for sensible gun control and civil liberties, and her work on landmark settlements with massive opioid distributors has helped bring unprecedented accountability and hundreds of millions of dollars to Massachusetts anti-addiction efforts, including millions to impacted Berkshire communities.

Ms. Healey’s Republican opponent Geoff Diehl, a former state representative and U.S. Senate candidate, certainly differs from Ms. Healey on a raft of issues. Those policy disagreements are not disqualifying. Here’s what is: Mr. Diehl, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has been unacceptably ambivalent about the 45th president’s assault on democracy. In fact, he’s carelessly contributed to it by regurgitating baseless “big lie” rhetoric that contributed to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and continues to undermine our democratic institutions.

In a meeting with The Eagle’s editorial board and at a recent debate, Mr. Diehl seemed exasperated at being asked about Mr. Trump’s endorsement, brushing aside the topic while acknowledging that Joe Biden won the presidency. In other venues — say, a right-wing radio show — he strikes a very different tone. He has said the 2020 election was “rigged” and “stolen from Trump,” blaming the “FBI” and “voter fraud” without evidence. Further, when The New York Times asked Trump-endorsed Republican candidates for office across the country if they would accept the outcomes of their respective elections, Mr. Diehl was among the candidates who declined to commit to accepting 2022 results. This is a dangerous tack against democratic norms for anyone, much less someone seeking the highest office in Massachusetts. It also suggests to voters that Mr. Diehl could not be trusted as governor to speak honestly and consistently on even the most foundational of matters like the integrity of elections and the importance of defending our democracy from cynical sabotage.

Whoever wins the electoral contest to succeed Gov. Charlie Baker, it will be a tough act to follow. Gov. Baker, who has followed in the long tradition of moderate Republicans operating pragmatically in deep-blue Massachusetts, is exiting his two-term tenure on top as the most popular governor in the country. When the Bay State is at its best, it not only benefits citizens across the commonwealth but leads the nation. It’s often done so under Gov. Baker, and we believe it will do so under a Gov. Healey, as well. The Eagle endorses Maura Healey for governor of Massachusetts.

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