Sonia Chang-Díaz ends bid for Massachusetts governor & More news

 

“I have looked at the numbers every which way,” Chang-Díaz said. “Unfortunately, there is no path I can responsibly lead my supporters on that results in me becoming governor this year.”

Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the deadline for candidates to withdraw from the ballot passed weeks ago, meaning Chang-Díaz’s name will remain before voters on the Sept. 6 primary despite her decision Thursday.

Her announcement nonetheless surprised some who’ve followed her campaign, and her departure creates one of the strangest Massachusetts governor’s races in living memory. It frees Healey to run virtually unencumbered through at least early September, when she’ll then draw one of two Republicans — both of whom she has led by yawning margins in public polling — in the November election.

When asked whether she would throw her support behind Healey, Chang-Díaz declined to answer.

“I am focusing my energies on these candidates,” she said, pointing to a slate of down-ballot candidates she is endorsing. “I will support the Democratic nominee in this race. There is no question. In the primary, I am going to vote for myself because I think I am the best choice for governor.”

Chang-Díaz delivered her announcement outside a Jamaica Plain early education center, where she was joined by her husband, children, and father, as well as many supporters, including a swath of elected officials and candidates who have endorsed her. She had huddled with several supporters on a virtual meeting earlier Thursday to tell them of her plans.

In dropping out, she said she said intends to redirect her efforts to helping a series of other progressive candidates, including state representative candidates Vivian Birchall, Raul Fernandez, and Sam Montaño, and two candidates for district attorney: Ricardo Arroyo, who’s running in Suffolk County, and Rahsaan Hall, who’s running in Plymouth County.

Chang-Díaz said she would be “open to” supporting other statewide candidates, but did not endorse any Thursday.

She is less than three weeks removed from qualifying for the ballot at the state Democratic Party convention, where she captured less than 30 percent of support among party delegates and finished well back of Healey.

The same week, state Senate President Karen E. Spilka — who once stripped Chang-Díaz of her longtime role as co-leader of the Legislature’s education committee — threw her support behind Healey, who’s risen to the top of public polling with a $5.2 million war chest and widespread name recognition built from two statewide victories.

In a statement, Healey said she is grateful for Chang-Díaz’s work as an elected official and as a gubernatorial candidate.

“The legacy of her campaign will live on through the young girls who finally saw themselves represented in a candidate for the highest office in the state,” the South End Democrat. “I look forward to continuing to partner with Senator Chang-Díaz to bring people together and make Massachusetts work for all of our families.”

Chang-Díaz, a seven-term senator, crafted a campaign message around promises to pursue seismic policy changes: She supports fare-free public transportation and a government-funded single-payer health care system. She touted a “Green New Deal” at the state level.

A longtime advocate for balancing the scales of school funding, she also ran with a political outsider’s bent despite her long tenure on Beacon Hill, touting her willingness to buck Democratic State House leaders even when it cost her politically.

She several times recounted her removal from the education committee after failing to reach a deal on a sweeping school funding bill in 2018, saying she “held the line” on negotiations and ultimately helped realize a $1.5 billion infusion into the state’s schools over several years.

“Stand up for what you actually believe,” she implored delegates from the stage at this month’s convention. “Vote for action, not just words.”

Fernandez, a Brookline Democrat who has been endorsed by Chang-Díaz in his State House race, said he resonated with her message that progressive ideas like his can’t be pushed to the sidelines. His support doesn’t stop with the end of her gubernatorial run, he said.

“She’s my candidate. From the moment she announced, I was all in,” he said. “I didn’t know who else was going to run and frankly, I didn’t care. I am still going to vote for her on September 6, no question about it.”

The Senator currently chairs legislative committees on cannabis policy and racial equity, and was a lead negotiator on omnibus police accountability law passed in late 2020.

She won her state Senate seat when she defeated incumbent Dianne Wilkerson in the 2008 Democratic primary before winning the seat that November.

But she long struggled to grab attention in the governor’s race, at first overshadowed by questions of whether Governor Charlie Baker would run for reelection (he’s not) and then by Healey’s entrance into the race in January.

She unsuccessfully sought to pressure Healey into a series of debates ahead of the convention. An April poll showed her lagging the attorney general by 45 percentage points, and by the time she entered the DCU Center in Worcester this month, her campaign had spent more than it raised in consecutive months.

An underdog she always was. “I don’t think there’s been a political endeavor within 13-plus years where I haven’t been an underdog,” she told the Globe last month.

But in deep-blue Massachusetts, where the Democratic bench runs long with ambitious candidates, her decision created a scenario almost inconceivable just months ago: It’s Republicans, not Democrats, who’ll have to fight through a contested primary for a chance at an open gubernatorial seat.

Geoff Diehl, a former state lawmaker backed by former president Donald Trump, and Chris Doughty, a Wrentham businessman and first-time candidate, are vying on the Republican ticket. A late April Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll found showed Healey with 27- and 30-point leads over them, respectively.

In a statement Thursday, Diehl said the senator’s departure from the race “makes this now a clear contest between my vision to make Massachusetts a better place to live and work, and the policies of Maura Healey which would drive more families and businesses to leave our state in search of better opportunities elsewhere.”

Doughty, in a statement, accused Healey of muscling Chang-Díaz out of the race so “Democrat voters don’t have a choice.”

“We believe that voters should have choices in elections, not coronations,” Doughty said.


Matt Stout can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout. Samantha J. Gross can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.

 

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