UPDATED: 19 JAN 2022 05:13 PM EST
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a progressive lawyer known for taking on former President Donald Trump and Purdue Pharma, will launch her campaign for governor on Thursday, according to two people familiar with her planning.
Healey’s entrance could maximize Democrats’ chances of retaking the office the party has so rarely held in recent decades.
It’s also likely to keep another potential contender, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, out of the open-seat race. Walsh has been weighing whether to return home and run, but people close to the former Boston mayor have repeatedly said he was unlikely to enter the fray if Healey did, despite the more than $5 million that remains in his campaign war chest.
Healey, who’s been “seriously considering” running for governor for the better part of a year, has long been viewed as Democrats’ best shot at reclaiming the governor’s office. Republicans have held the position for most of the past 30 years, a streak broken only by former governor and presidential hopeful Deval Patrick.
Her path became much clearer after GOP Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito both bowed out of the 2022 contest in early December, tipping the race toward the Democrats.
Healey now enters as the automatic frontrunner not just in her party’s primary, but in the entire gubernatorial contest. She had $3.67 million in the bank at the start of the month, multitudes more than her rivals, and eclipsed them in December fundraising without officially being in the race. Veteran Democratic strategist Mindy Myers is helping guide her campaign as a general consultant.
Even before Healey got in, one Democrat, former state Sen. Ben Downing, dropped out late last year, citing fundraising woes. The remaining Democratic hopefuls — state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and Havard political theorist and nonprofit leader Danielle Allen — do not have the statewide network and name recognition Healey’s built over two successful campaigns for attorney general.
Republican candidate Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who’s backed by former President Donald Trump, got trounced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in his last statewide campaign in 2018.
Still, to win, Healey will have to overcome Massachusetts’ so-called attorney-general curse. Six attorneys general have tried for the governor’s office since Paul Dever last won it in the 1950s, and all have failed. A progressive Democrat, Healey will have to win over not just Republicans and independents who make up the majority of the state’s registered voters, but activists within her own party who are to her left.
A former Middlesex County prosecutor who worked her way up the ranks of the state attorney general’s office, Healey became the first openly gay attorney general in the country when she was elected as the state’s top law enforcement official in 2014. She would also be the state's first woman and first openly gay person elected governor.
Healey made headlines for filing dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration over immigration policies, contraception and more; challenging Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family over their roles in the opioid epidemic; suing Juul for “creating a youth vaping epidemic” and taking on student-loan servicer Navient. She’s been a vocal critic of Texas’ new abortion law and an advocate for canceling student loan debt.
But Healey faced a setback late last year when a judge tossed charges of criminal neglect Healey had brought against two former leaders at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, a long-term care facility where at least 76 veterans died in a Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.
And, like other Democrats, she lost one of her main foils when Trump left office, though she would face a similar foe in Diehl.
Healey is the latest high-profile state attorney general to entertain running for governor this cycle, following in the footsteps of Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf is term-limited. New York Attorney General Tish James dropped out of the state’s gubernatorial contest barely six weeks after she entered it, amid poor early polling.
Healey’s entrance into the Massachusetts governor’s race will also have a ripple effect on down-ballot races in the state, starting with her own attorney general seat. Quentin Palfrey, the 2018 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, and prominent labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan were already building campaigns for attorney general should Healey seek another office. And a county district attorney said to be eyeing the race could create another open seat in a state where they remain rare.