Gubernatorial hopefuls Maura Healey (she/her) and Geoff Diehl (he/him) squared off face-to-face for the first time at a debate hosted by NBC Boston on October 12th. Healey has served as Massachusetts’s Attorney General since 2015. If elected, the 51-year-old Democrat would be the state’s first LGBTQ governor and the first woman to be elected to the position. (Jane Swift (she/her), acting governor from 2001 to 2003, was not elected.) Republican candidate for governor, Diehl, served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019 for the 7th Plymouth District. He ran an unsuccessful campaign as the Republican candidate for one of Massachusetts’ Senate seats in 2018.
The debate covered a wide range of issues: housing prices, climate change, the MBTA, abortion, and teacher shortages were all up for live discussion. Though Diehl and Healey come from increasingly polarized parties, there was some overlap in their professed policy goals. Both agreed on the necessity for more affordable housing, stated their intention to cut taxes, and expressed their desire to expand mental health services.
Healey hammered Diehl hard for his endorsement by Donald Trump. Diehl also previously served as a co-chair of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Massachusetts (although WGBH reports his role was honorary). Healey accused him of playing “from the Trump playback” and wanting to “bring Trumpism to Massachusetts.” Diehl countered that she was using Trump as a “boogeyman” and criticized her support for President Biden.
Massachusetts is widely considered a solid blue state; it has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since 1988. But Massachusetts is no stranger to Republican governors. Three out of the five most recent governors have been Republicans. Diehl’s bid for governor is not fantastical, but given widespread distaste for Trump among Democrats and moderates, his connections to the former president could be what bar him from Beacon Hill.
A poll of likely voters conducted by Suffolk University after the debate has Healey polling at a comfortable 53% over Diehl’s 33%— a 23-point lead. With just over two weeks until the mid-term election, those numbers could still change, but for now it is Healey’s race to lose.