Sep 7, 2022 - Politics

Massachussetts takes a step toward one-party rule

Illustration of a donkey with a gavel in its mouth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Massachusetts voters could be set to usher in a new era of one-party rule on Beacon Hill after Republicans chose Geoff Diehl, a hardline gubernatorial nominee with ties to former President Donald Trump, to fight an uphill battle against the popular and possibly historic campaign of Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey.

What's happening: In a state that voted 2-to-1 in favor of Joe Biden over Donald Trump, the nomination of a Trump-backed Republican ticket means Democrats will very likely once again control every facet of Massachusetts state government.

The backdrop: Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, along with his lieutenant governor Karyn Polito, have been the only statewide officials elected from the GOP in the last eight years.

  • Democrats dominate the state legislature by wide margins, though the progressive and conservative wings of the House and Senate sometimes clash.
  • Without a Republican in the corner office to push back against them, Democrats will have the ability to push for higher spending and a more liberal legislative agenda.

Reality check: While popular with the 9.7% of voters registered as Republicans and a good deal more unenrolled voters, Diehl's track record running in elections is not stellar.

  • In his first and only statewide run, Diehl lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat to incumbent Elizabeth Warren by over 24 percentage points in 2018.
  • A 2015 special election for state Senate saw Diehl lose to his Democratic opponent by over 16 percentage points.
  • Diehl had better luck in 2014 when he led a ballot question campaign to eliminate automatic increases to the gas tax. The effort passed by 6%.

What they're saying: "Competition in different branches of government is a good thing from, basically, the watchdog perspective that the different parties play on each other," UMass Boston political science professor Erin O'Brien told Axios.

  • O'Brien said one-party control is typically associated with higher levels of corruption in government.
  • She said Democratic dominance would also put pressure on the legislature to pass significant new policies.

The big picture: If Healey takes office, legislative leaders won't need to worry as much about compromising with conservative Democrats to muster the two-thirds majorities needed to override a veto from the governor.

  • If backed by Healey, progressive proposals such as ending local and state involvement in immigration enforcement, updating sexual education standards and increasing carbon emission standards could more easily become law.

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