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Kamala Harris rallies Democrats in Roxbury

Shares stage at Reggie Lewis Track with statewide candidates

Avery Bleichfeld
Kamala Harris rallies Democrats in Roxbury
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the Massachusetts Get Out The Vote Rally at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. PHOTO: ANGELA ROWLINGS

Vice President Kamala Harris joined gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey and candidate for lieutenant governor Kim Driscoll at a Roxbury rally Nov. 2 to support the Democratic ticket and to get out the vote.

The event, held at Roxbury Community College’s Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, was also a show of support for attorney general candidate Andrea Campbell and state auditor candidate Diana DiZoglio. It featured speeches by politicians from Boston’s City Hall all the way up to the White House, celebrating the diversity of the Democratic ticket and warning about threats against reproductive rights, voting access and the state of U.S. democracy.

“Democracy is on the ballot,” Harris said. “You know, I’ll tell you, all voices count, and when we think about what’s at stake, we do want to ensure that everyone understands they have an equal place in terms of their voice and their leadership.”

Healey, who has often characterized her Republican opponent Geoff Diehl as Donald Trump’s candidate — the former president endorsed Diehl in October 2021 — said this election is a chance for the state to show where it falls on issues like reproductive rights, an topic that was highlighted throughout the event.

“Massachusetts, we are going to once again reject Trumpism, we will always protect a women’s access to an abortion, and together, we’re going to work to send a loud and clear message on Election Day,” Healey said.

Event attendees said that even as Healey was widely projected to win — a poll from University of Massachusetts Amherst released Oct. 28 found Healey almost 30 percentage points ahead of Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl — it was important to go vote.

“It’s very important. If you don’t vote, you can complain, but you did not vote, and you need to vote — people who care for what’s going on in the world, climate change, people in the community, poor people, Medicare,” said Cheryl Chapman, a Randolph resident who attended the event.

In her speech, Harris said voting is like “putting in an order” for what you want out of government and reminded attendees of the need to show that elections are important.

“In the midst of [the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020], people turned out in record numbers to vote,” Harris said. “They said, there are certain things I want from my country and its leaders. And so, I’m going to stand in these lines. For hours, I’m going to take time out of my busy life and all the burdens that life is presenting me with. And I will fill out that ballot, and I will mail it in, but I will put in my order. Because I know elections matter.”

Reproductive rights emphasized

At the event, Healey described a list of priorities in her campaign for governor, including issues around housing and transportation; support for higher education, including community colleges; issues of environmental justice and climate change; and reproductive freedom and access to abortion.

Driscoll said she and Healey were going to tackle the issues ahead of them if elected.

“I’m a proud member of what I call the ‘get-stuff-done’ wing of government, and Maura has been a get-stuff-done Attorney General,” Driscoll said. “Together, we hope to be the get-stuff-done team for Massachusetts.”

Speakers at the event often returned to the topic of abortion access, in reference to the July U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson that overturned Roe v. Wade’s previous ruling of a constitutional right to an abortion.

Former City Council President and Democratic nominee for Attorney General Andrea Campbell addresses Democratic activists. PHOTO: AVERY BLEICHFELD

“We just witnessed the United States Supreme Court take a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America,” Harris said. “And you know, on this subject, I think it’s really important to note, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body.”

Harris said state elections are especially important after the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson turned decisions about abortion legislation to the states.

“This is also why who is your governor, who is your lieutenant governor, who is your attorney general, who is your secretary of state will matter, to hold the line and be an example for other states, if not a safe place for people from other states to receive the health care they need,” Harris said.

Healey said she and Driscoll would continue to fight for protections for reproductive freedoms.

“Always, always, this team is going to stand strong with you and with people all across the state in protecting reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to an abortion,” Healey said.

A show of female power

For some event attendees, a key factor in this year’s election in Massachusetts is the diversity of the Democratic candidates. If won by Democrats, five of the six statewide positions on the ballot will be filled by women. Campbell would be the first Black woman elected to statewide office in Massachusetts.

In a speech at the event, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who is also on the ballot this fall, said the shift for these positions would be a big one, and demonstrates the extraordinary nature of the women running to fill them.

“We can’t bring a new chair to an old table in this moment. We’re creating a whole new table, a whole new table which affirms that women belong everywhere that decisions are being made about their lives,” Pressley said.

Claudia Smith-Reid, a Grove Hall resident, said she expects the change in leadership to bring important change to the state.

“There’s a new table and we’re bringing new chairs to the table, and they are the voices of dynamic, courageous women who are going to fight for each and every cause that we need presence on, and the vote is extremely important in Massachusetts,” Smith-Reid said.

Healey and Driscoll together would be the first all-woman executive team to lead the state, while Healey would be the first woman elected to serve as governor of Massachusetts.

At the rally, Healey acknowledged Pressley and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who both were the first women of color to be elected to their positions.

“There are many who have gone before us, and we stand on their shoulders today,” Healey said. “And we are grateful to all of those who blazed a trail.”

Wu, who spoke at the event, also highlighted the number of women running in the election.

“There are an unprecedented number of power women that we’re going to get to fill in those bubbles, who are all up and down the ballot,” Wu said.

The slate of Democratic candidates made Smith-Reid, at least, more comfortable with her expected outcome in the state, even if she’s worried about the United States overall.

“I’m really serious, this is remarkable to have a slate of all women that are going to make a new day from Massachusetts,” she said. “I’m scared for the country, but at least for Massachusetts, I think we’re going to look at all of those issues and have that kind of voice up and down the ticket.”

Campbell said the change that the Democratic candidates hope to bring will go beyond just women.

“It’s not just about effectuating change for women. What we do is effectuate change for everyone in communities of color, immigrant communities, LGBTQ — anyone who has ever felt left out, left behind or marginalized, including our elders, including our disability community,” Campbell said. “I am not going to slow down. We’re going to cross that finish line.”

Democracy at stake

Speakers characterized this year’s election as putting democracy itself on the ballot.

“I don’t need to tell you the stakes are high; that’s why when you could have been anywhere else today, you chose to be here,” Pressley said. “But my spirit is hopeful, because I have seen what we can accomplish when our backs are against the wall.”

Harris said the election is a way for voters to stand up for their rights and their democracy. She said that  beyond voting, Massachusetts residents should talk to friends and family in other states.

“It really matters who you talk to — your neighbors, your friends, your cousins who live in other states. Call your cousins that live in other states. It really matters,” Harris said.

She said engaging in the election is an important way for voters to protect democracy in the United States.

“I think that the nature of democracy is that there’s a duality to it,” Harris said. “On the one hand, when it is intact, it is extremely strong in the way that it defends and secures individual rights and liberties and freedom. It’s incredibly strong in what it does for its people. On the other hand, it is extremely fragile. It will only be as strong as our willingness to fight for it — and so fight for it we must.”