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Candidates make early moves in gov’s. race

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO
Candidates make early moves in gov’s. race
(From left) Sonia Chang-Diaz, Danielle Allen, Ben Downing

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who represents about half of Boston in the state Senate, has joined two other candidates in the 2022 race for Massachusetts governor.

Though Gov. Charlie Baker has not indicated whether he will run again, two others have entered the ring so far: Danielle Allen, a Harvard professor, and Ben Downing, a former Western Massachusetts senator.

Chang-Diaz is known for her progressive stands in the Senate, supporting criminal justice reform and landing crucial education funding. She is running on the platform of “urgency,” saying in her campaign video that too many lawmakers on Beacon Hill drag their feet. As governor, Chang-Diaz says, she will continue to push for a millionaires tax and fight to close the racial wealth gap.

Chang-Diaz is the first Latina in the Senate and would be the first elected woman governor of Massachusetts. (Former Lt. Gov. Jane Swift assumed the governor role from 2001 until January 2003 after Gov. Paul Cellucci left office for a U.S. ambassador role.)

Among Chang-Diaz’ biggest challenges may be Attorney General Maura Healy, if Healy declares a run.

According to political analyst and former UMass professor Maurice Cunningham, Healy is a likely candidate for the role of first female governor of the state.

“She’d take up so much of the organization, so much of the fundraising and so much public attention, that it would make it very difficult for any of the other three to really break through,” Cunningham told the Banner.

On the GOP side, Geoff Diehl, former state representative and candidate for the U.S. Senate, is a potential candidate. After losing to Elizabeth Warren in 2018, he has maintained a political presence in the Massachusetts GOP and is further right on the political spectrum than Baker.

“The party has drifted right, and a lot of the activist base has drifted right, so this could cause Baker some problems,” Cunningham said. 

Candidates Allen and Downing have declared on the Democrat side. Downing is a former state senator who served the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district for 10 years. Allen is a Harvard professor and the only Black candidate in the race so far. Though it’s too early for either candidate to develop a policy platform, both use progressive ideas in their messaging and say they want to address the inequities brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allen offers the least practical political experience. Though she is highly regarded in the academic community, widely published and active in the Harvard community outside of teaching, she has never held office.

Cecily Graham, committee chair of the Ward 18 Democratic Committee, told the Banner that candidates would need to show how well they understand the state’s resources in order to separate themselves when each is talking about inequity and recovery.

“Dig a little deeper. Focus on legislation that would close the achievement gap,” she said.

Though Baker has done some work to address inequities in education, health care and the economy, Graham said, he has received some criticism for a botched vaccine rollout.

“That’s where a democratic candidate can come in and address those progressive values,” Graham said.

In terms of engaging the public, which is reeling from a year of racial reckoning at every level, Graham says there is a need for a candidate that each community can identify with.

“Eventually, that urgency will manifest and more people will enter the race, because of those before us,” she said, referring to the momentum behind U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s campaign, and campaigns for city councilors of color. “But it shouldn’t be the only factor,” she said.

Nomination papers for governor of Massachusetts will be made available in early 2022.