What to know about the Massachusetts gubernatorial race


Avery Bleichfeld

This illustration is a derivative of “Massachusetts_State_Rep._Geoff_Diehl.jpg” by Geoffrey Diehl, used under CC BY-SA 3.0. This illustration is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Eli Curwin, news staff

With the Massachusetts gubernatorial election in a little under a month, here is a rundown about when to vote, where to vote and who is running.

How and when to vote

In Massachusetts, the deadline to register to vote is Oct. 29. Registration can be completed in person, by mail or online. While it varies by polling place, early in-person voting starts Oct. 22 and ends Nov. 4. 

Voters in Massachusetts can also vote by mail with no excuse needed. The deadline to apply for mail-in voting is Nov. 1. 

Elections will be held across the state Nov. 8. 

To find your polling place, check here

Who are the candidates?

There are four candidates running for governor in Massachusetts. Maura Healey, the progressive attorney general of Massachusetts, Geoff Diehl, a Trump-backed former Massachusetts legislator, Kevin Reed, a libertarian businessman and Dianna Ploss, a far-right radio personality are all on the ballot this November.

While Reed and Ploss face an insurmountable election, Healey and Diehl’s race is a battle of conservatism and progressivism, as they stand on opposite sides of nearly every issue.

So, who are Healey and Diehl? How have they voted or litigated in the past, and where do they stand on key issues? 

Healey was born in 1971 and raised in New Hampshire. After completing her degree in government at Harvard College, she graduated from Northeastern University School of Law. She then practiced law at a private firm before working as a Special Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County.

In 2007, then Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley appointed Healey to head the office’s Civil Rights Division. She would lead the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau in 2012 and the Labor Bureau in 2013 as well. In her 2014 bid for attorney general, Healey won over 60% of the vote, and was elected as the first openly-gay attorney general in the country.

Diehl was born in 1969 and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After completing his degree at Lehigh University in government and urban studies, he worked in advertising, television production and then as an account executive. In 2010, Plymouth’s 7th district elected Diehl to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Serving in a blue state, Diehl was one of few Republicans and was often one of the most conservative members in the House. On key issues, Diehl almost always voted along party lines, even when moderate Republicans would find compromise and vote with Democrats.

Where do they stand on key issues?

For the Democrats, Healey has proven herself as a progressive litigator, but some have concerns that she has difficulty prosecuting corruption. 

Healey often made national headlines as a nuisance to Trump, filing hundreds of lawsuits and taking actions against the former president’s environmental rollbacks, southern border policies and attacks on the Affordable Care Act. 

The Attorney General has also focused on tackling the statewide opioid crisis, suing manufacturers and distributors throughout her time in office. In 2018, Massachusetts was the first state to sue the Sackler family, known for deceiving people into opioid addictions. Three years later, her office resolved the lawsuit with $4.3 billion from the Sacklers, investing the money into treatment and prevention.

Healey also has fought for collective bargaining rights, leading a multi-state coalition in 2016 to provide greater support and protections for union elections. She also filed suit against ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft, requiring them to consider drivers as employees under Massachusetts labor laws.

Her time in office also saw several lawsuits against states that banned abortion and gender affirming care, against student loan providers for deceiving students and against JUUL and Eonsmoke for advertising and selling to minors.

As attorney general, Healey took actions to reduce gun violence, encouraging the Supreme Court in 2021 to allow state and local governments to regulate guns. Additionally, she supported a federal rule to regulate Ghost Guns, untraceable firearms that lack serial numbers or identifying marks.

When it comes to housing, Healey has a history protecting tenants. On her website, Healey describes a plan to create a Secretary of Housing position for her cabinet, allow local governments to implement rent stabilization policies, increase current infrastructure for housing, and simply build more developments.

For the MBTA, Healey plans to have all public transportation take the form of electric vehicles. Through appointing a Transportation Safety Chief, and using federal funding to improve safety and accessibility, Healey is looking to overhaul public transportation in Massachusetts.

Where Healey receives the brunt of her criticism is in her prosecution of corruption in her own government. While she does have some success attacking nefarious public officials, just as often as she wins, charges are dropped and lost cases are kept quiet. 

An advocate of police reform, Healey created the Massachusetts Internal Conviction Integrity Unit and has put her support behind the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. However, her ability to convict police malpractice is inconsistent. 

Healey has also faced criticism from the left, as she spent ample time in 2016 opposing marijuana legalization, which she now supports, and partially supporting facial recognition technology and no-knock warrants. 

But for all the criticisms against her, Healey is a favorite among the Democrats. She has received endorsements from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, abortion rights advocacy groups and several labor organizations.  

After legislating for eight years, Diehl’s voting records portray him as a staunch conservative who fights for deregulation and the free market. 

When it comes to labor policy, Diehl’s focus on protecting workers is inconsistent. In 2012, he voted against a bill that would permit child care workers to collectively bargain. In 2014, he voted against creating labor standards for domestic workers. In 2017, he voted against comprehensive regulations for ride sharing apps, which would set criteria for drivers and make ride sharing more accessible. 

In 2018, he sponsored a bill that would enforce transparency in construction worker benefits, along with a bill that called for increased benefits for Civil Air Patrol and Coast Guard Auxiliary members. Both of these bills failed. Most recently, in 2018, Diehl voted against a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and would create required time off for workers. 

Outside of a few sentences on his website advocating for affordable and accessible housing, Diehl has provided little information regarding his housing policy. However, he has pushed against the Massachusetts multi-family zoning requirements. 

For public transportation, Diehl says he plans to reconstruct the management of the MBTA and create a commission to oversee renovations and repairs. 

Diehl has also voted against bills that would prohibit gender discrimination, protect access to abortions and authorize the use and sale of marijuana. 

Diehl is a strong advocate for firearms, voting against identity verification and background checks in 2014. In 2018, he voted against extreme risk protection orders. These orders allow families to force the surrendering of guns from someone deemed an “extreme risk” living in the household.

Consistently voting to defend child welfare, Diehl has made protecting minors a staple of his legislative history. In 2014, Diehl voted yes on a bill that would require parole eligibility for juveniles serving a life sentence. In 2018, he voted to increase the required age to purchase tobacco products and increase access to child sex offender registries.

There were moments where Diehl worked alongside his Democratic counterparts, voting to prevent healthcare companies from arbitrarily raising prices on medicine in 2012, prohibit the sale of bump stocks in 2017 and prohibit gender conversion therapy in 2018.

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Diehl, and various gun rights advocacy groups and police unions in Massachusetts have also shown support for him. While some moderates are alienated by Diehl’s far right policies, he has the majority of the Republican base behind him.

What does the election forecast look like?

In September, Healey won the Democratic primary 85.6% to 14.4% against fellow progressive Sonia Chang-Díaz. Diehl won the Republican primary, defeating Chris Doughty 55.5% to 44.5%. 

While Healey is the 25.3-point favorite to win the election in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic, it has been common for the governor of Massachusetts to lean right of center. Current Gov. Charlie Baker, known for his bridge building and compromises, is a noted member of the Republican party.

For now, Healey holds a substantial lead over the Trump-endorsed Diehl, but like any race, the decision will be made on election day.