Nov 28, 2022 - Politics

Healey in the middle

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images

When she enters the State House's corner office Jan. 5 as Massachusetts' first Democratic governor in eight years, Maura Healey will be expected by some to usher in bold progressive reforms, and by others to carry on the centrism of her Republican predecessor.

  • Healey beat Republican challenger Geoff Diehl by a wide 28.6-point margin, according to the AP, meaning she had support from Democrats and unenrolled voters.

Why it matters: Healey won the governor's office backed by a coalition of liberal Democrats who want change, along with more centrist voters who may prefer the status quo.

What they're saying: Healey will also face pressure from a cautious legislature that often sides with business interests and sees itself as the protector of the state's fiscal stability and economic growth.

  • "Sometimes the legislature can be more of a balance to a Democratic governor than to a Republican governor," former Sen. Steve Baddour told Axios on election night.
  • Baddour, who was a moderating force in the left-leaning Senate, said he expects Healey to "hit the ground running" and to manage the legislature, as well as the left and center parts of her coalition, well because of her years already spent in statewide office.

What to watch: Healey supporters on the left expect the new governor to flex her progressive muscle next year by strengthening protections for reproductive health and the environment, two issues Healey campaigned strongly on.

  • Jonathan Cohn from Progressive Mass. told Axios environmentalists expect Healey to go further than Baker on implementing climate laws already approved by lawmakers.
  • Healey is likely to also score points with progressives by adopting much of the Beyond Roe Coalition's agenda to secure abortion rights in the state.

Worth noting: Healey and the legislature broadly overlap on these issues so the new governor will not risk alienating her Democratic colleagues.

What's next: Healey's other agenda items are harder to guess.

  • "I don't think there has been much clarity on policy issues," Cohn said.
  • Cohn and other progressives are watching closely at who Healey puts on her transition teams and in her cabinet for hints at how aggressively progressive the new administration will be on issues like education and housing.

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