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Get out and vote: Examining Maura Healey

he official portrait of Maura Healey. Photo sourced from Mass.gov.

Okay, I admit it—I slack off when it comes to local politics. I’m sure many of you do too; even for those of us who are particularly politically engaged. National politics just suck so much air out of the room that local races and issues have little oxygen to breathe. Right now, most people are focused on the midterm elections for the senate. But as much of a cliché as it’s become, it is true that all politics are local. In an era where even the tiniest of governments are becoming battlegrounds—with conservatives taking over local election boards and 19-year-old progressives being elected to school councils—it is on each and every one of us to check in and engage with these races.

On Nov. 8, we are not only voting for our senators but also for our new governor. Massachusetts is indeed solid blue on a national level, but things are a lot more complicated further down the line, and races are very competitive. Your vote does matter quite a lot at the local level, even here, and this year is a doozy. We are being faced with a choice between Democrat Maura Healey and Republican Geoff Diehl, and neither of them are a sure thing. The only way that we are going to get a governor that truly represents us, is if every one of us votes in this election.

So, over the course of this week and next, I’m going to partially depart from my usual style in preparation for the elections, and to encourage you all to vote. I’ve done my research into both candidates, in an effort to stay better informed myself, and I’m going to tell you what I’ve found so that you too might understand these two candidates better and make a well-informed decision about your own vote. I know that third-party candidates are appealing to a lot of us—believe me, I hate this two-party gridlock that we’ve developed in this country. In fact, I won’t tell you to not vote for a third-party option; I think that a vote in good conscience is better than a non-vote. However, I do believe that the most effective votes at this point in time are votes for one of the two main parties, so for now, I will be presenting you with the ins and outs of our two main options in this edition and next: Healey and Diehl.

Let’s start with the basics: Who is Maura Healey, anyway? Well, currently she is our attorney general, and has been since 2015. If you don’t know what an attorney general does, they are, according to Ballotpedia, “the chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer for the state government,” and essentially represent and advise the state in matters of law and law enforcement. Like many attorneys general, Healey began her career as a private law firm lawyer and moved on to become a prosecutor. She was the head of the civil rights division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office for a while, as well as a few other divisions, before being elected as attorney general.

So, what does she stand for? Traditionally, she has campaigned for civil rights; supported environmental protection and clean energy; championed progressive criminal justice reform, which focused on opportunity and social aid; and pushed for disabled access both in-person and online. Housing, healthcare and reproductive rights are also issues she cares about. These all seem like solid, progressive agendas, and she has indeed delivered on some of these fronts. Healey is well-known for her community outreach program, which, in part, brings public comment opportunities to communities around Massachusetts—though the track record for such community outreach is usually pretty dismal. She has pushed through settlements and agreements with companies for disability access, led the civil rights division of the attorney general’s office and has quite a few important cases under her belt in general.

The Human Rights Campaign PAC endorses her for governor, as she has a great track record on LGBTQ+ issues. They describe her as having “brought the first successful challenge to the anti-LGBTQ+ Defense of Marriage Act.” If she were to become our governor, she would be the first openly lesbian governor in the country. This is all wonderful; however, to get the larger picture, I also wanted to learn more about her track record and plans on other civil rights issues, such as racial equity.

On her campaign page, she briefly outlines her work to reduce student loan debt for “families of color and immigrants,” and “recovery services in Black and Latino/Hispanic communities.” She seems to be marketing her case against a subprime auto loan lender who engaged in predatory practices—which brought $27 million of relief to consumers across the state—as a racial equity issue, but it is unclear how fair this framing is.

Her criminal justice reform platform does seem to be highly intersectional with racial equity, however. She has brought to light civil rights violations in the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, and says she plans for police reform, prevention techniques, “workforce development” and more.

As we all know, our police and criminal law system disproportionately affects people of color, and so her plans certainly seem to confront this. With her track record, I believe she will indeed fight for these reforms in good faith—it just remains to be seen how effective they will turn out to be.

She also supports a child tax credit, which will greatly help lower-income families from marginalized communities, and her education platform—which is fairly par-for-the-course progressive in nature—includes an emphasis on promoting and recruiting people of color into teaching roles. This is something I think most people can get on board with.

If there’s one thing that Massachusetts residents—and particularly Bostonians—are focused on, it is housing costs. UMass Boston students, staff and faculty certainly feel the pain of our crazy housing and rental market. Healey acknowledges this and plans to “establish a Secretary of Housing position to lead the growth of housing in the Commonwealth;” empower hyper-local community decision-making; see “potential” for zoning reform; build new affordable housing; “tackle” the homelessness issue, as politicians love to say; and more. Honestly, most of this seems pretty typical. We have seen a lot of this rhetoric in the past with little results. Like many of you, I am heavily skeptical about any politicians’ plans to fix the housing costs and availability, especially in the Boston area. The constant creation of commissions is not a real solution, but zoning reform and streamlining building applications definitely are, so I hope she is serious about these tenants. Currently, these specific solutions seem understated in her campaign messaging.

In terms of recent issues, Healey supports driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants—in other words, a “yes” vote for question number four on the ballot—as well as decent healthcare access and pathways to citizenship. She is pro-choice on the abortion issue and supports the VOTES Act—which includes “same day voter registration and election day voting and making voting more accessible to people who are incarcerated.” This is typical Massachusetts Democrat fare, so those who vote Democrat should be happy with her in these respects.

In fact, anything I missed that you are wondering about can be summed up with two words: “typically progressive.” However, there are some rather strange exceptions.

Firstly, she is staunchly against gambling—a curious choice, since many progressives might see this as an overly Puritan attitude. Though, to be fair, Massachusetts has always been annoyingly Puritan on both sides of the aisle.

Second, her healthcare platform is pretty barebones and understated. She does not seem to advocate for Medicare for All, or any overarching reforms outside of vague consumer protection, price reduction and anti-discrimination rhetoric—all great things, but nowhere near what people like Elizabeth Warren campaigned on. Even so, Warren is an endorser of Healey.

Thirdly, it seems that some people do not think she has gone far enough in the fight against political corruption. She has gone after multiple ex-police officers for overtime abuse, but not much else. To be honest, while it is unfortunate, it is also not surprising for any politician. A better track record on corruption would be great, but sadly it is a rarity in politics.

I hope that this rundown was helpful to everyone reading this, and I hope it encourages you to do some research of your own; and to vote! It’s incumbent on all of us, as students, to be the change we want to see, and to take part in our democracy. All the UMass Campuses have joined the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge to register student voters and get them to the polls. If you do not know if you are registered, need to register, want to sign up for vote-by-mail, or learn how to vote from out-of-state for your own states’ elections, visit Massachusetts.edu/umass-votes for information and resources.

I can’t wait to hear about the surge of college students at the polls—and remember to tune in next week for an examination of Republican contender Geoff Diehl!

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor