Maura Healey Running for Governor?  Well, Charlie, You Go First

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Maura Healey appears to be playing a game of chicken with Charlie Baker over whether either is running for governor of Massachusetts in 2022.

Healey, the state Attorney General and a hard-left Democrat, ducked questions Thursday about whether she plans to run for governor in 2022.

“I’m thinking about that right now. I’m going to take the summer to think about that. Obviously, my term is up in 2022 and I need to make some decisions about what that means for me,” Healey said during an interview Thursday, July 15 on Boston Public Radio, an afternoon talk show on WGBH. “So I’m taking time to think about it and talk to people, and I’ll know more by the fall.”

(The questions and answers are at 47:02 at “A.G. Maura Healey on BPR” at the WGBH web site.)

Jim Braude, co-host of the show, asked Healey if that means it’s likely she’ll make an announcement in the fall. She didn’t say yes. She didn’t say no.

“Well, I think the reality is there’s a cycle, and there are certain things one needs,” Healey said. “So it’s something I’m thinking about now and taking the time to consider.”

Braude asked Healey if she owes it to the announced Democratic candidates for governor (former state senator Ben Downing, Harvard professor Danielle Allen, and current state senator Sonia Chang-Diaz) to announce a decision, since their ability to raise money and nail down support among voters and other politicians may be more difficult if Healey’s plans are unknown.

Healey said she has “great respect for them” and praised the other candidates for stepping forward.

But she didn’t give away the game.

“It’s serious stuff, right? I just want to get that right,” Healey said.

Healey is widely considered the most likely Democratic nominee in 2022 if she runs. But it’s not clear that she wants to run against Baker, a fiscally moderate, socially liberal Republican who has maintained high poll numbers through six and a half years in office.

A loss could stunt or end Healey’s political career, when she’d be the odds-on favorite to win re-election as Attorney General and may draw interest as a candidate for other elected office or for an appointed federal office.

Baker has also refused to answer questions about whether he plans to run for a third term. Last cycle, Baker didn’t formally announce he was running for re-election until November 28, 2017, less than a year before the general election. But it was widely understood that he planned to run. This time around, opinion seems to be divided.

In June 2021, Baker’s campaign fund raised $90,854.60, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. That’s after raising only $3,432.80 in May 2021.

A common theme among political observers in Massachusetts is that if Baker runs he’ll win, that if he doesn’t run then a GOP primary featuring Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito (a Baker ally) and conservative Geoff Diehl (who is currently the only announced GOP candidate) could be a tossup, and that either Republican would lose to Healey in the general election.

Massachusetts Attorney General on paper seems like a good steppingstone, but it hasn’t worked out that way in recent decades. The last Attorney General to go on to subsequent elected office was Ed Brooke, who served as Attorney General from 1963 to 1967; he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966 — 55 years ago.

Brooke’s successor, Elliot Richardson, served as state Attorney General from 1967 to 1969, before joining President Richard Nixon’s Cabinet. (He eventually became U.S. Attorney General.) Richardson is the last Republican to have served as Massachusetts Attorney General. (He lost in 1984 when he ran for U.S. Senate.)

Since Richardson, five of the most recent six state attorneys general (all Democrats) have lost when they ran for governor, ending their political careers. They are Robert Quinn, Francis X. Bellotti, Scott Harshbarger, Tom Reilly, and Martha Coakley (who lost running for U.S. Senate before she lost running for governor).

The other one, James Shannon, lost in 1990 when he ran for re-election as Attorney General.


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