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Maura Healey to face Trump-backed Republican in deep-blue Massachusetts

The gubernatorial contest is seen by analysts as a strong opportunity for Democrats to flip a seat currently under Republican control

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks to the Annual Greater Boston Labor Council Breakfast on Sept. 5 in Boston. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

Maura Healey (D), who made history as the country’s first openly gay attorney general, will face Trump-backed former state legislator Geoff Diehl (R) in the Massachusetts governor’s race this November — a contest seen by analysts as one of the best chances for Democrats to flip control of a Republican-held seat.

Healey’s win, which was projected by the Associated Press, was long anticipated. Her only opponent in the primary suspended her campaign, though her name remained on the ballot. Healey was elected to her current job in 2014 and begins as a strong favorite in a heavily Democratic state.

If she prevails in the fall, Healey would be the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts, and potentially one of the first two openly lesbian governors in the country, should Democrat Tina Kotek win in Oregon.

In the Republican primary, Diehl, who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump, defeated a more centrist rival, businessman Chris Doughty, the AP projected. Diehl has echoed Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” after initially acknowledging that President Biden won.

Democratic primary voters in Massachusetts also picked a nominee for attorney general in a race that divided the two U.S. senators and other party leaders in the deep-blue state. They went with Andrea Campbell, the first Black woman to be president of the Boston City Council, over labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan. Campbell was backed by Sen. Edward J. Markey while Sen. Elizabeth Warren backed Liss-Riordan.

The Bay State was the only place in the country holding primaries the day after Labor Day, and voting there marked the beginning of the end of the primary season. With intraparty contests in all but a handful of states complete, both parties have begun campaigning across the country with an eye on November, clashing over inflation, crime, abortion rights and the records of Biden and his predecessor.

Diehl is the latest candidate endorsed by Trump to prevail in a blue state primary where only more moderate Republicans have won recently. In Maryland, Trump-endorsed legislator Dan Cox won the GOP nomination over a candidate endorsed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan; in Illinois, Trump-backed state Sen. Darren Bailey defeated rivals who party leaders saw as more electable. Democrats spent in both races to aid the candidates who ended up winning, some wagering they would be easier to defeat in November. But they did no do so in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts gubernatorial contest is regarded by analysts as one of Democrats’ best opportunities to turn a red seat blue in November. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican and Trump critic, declined to seek a third term in office.

Healey, who has sued the Trump administration nearly 100 times, according to a tally by the Boston Globe, was effectively running for the Democratic nomination uncontested after state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz suspended her campaign.

Republicans are expected to have a difficult path to holding the governorship. Their gubernatorial primary was another in a long succession of intraparty contests this year featuring a candidate backed by the 45th president.

Diehl ran in the primary touting the support of Trump, who joined a tele-rally for him Monday night.

“Geoff is a proven fighter who successfully pushes back on the ultraliberal extremists,” Trump said on behalf of Diehl during the tele-rally. “He’ll rule your state with an iron fist, and he’ll do what has to be done.”

As the GOP Senate nominee in 2018, Diehl lost to Warren by 24 percentage points. Trump lost Massachusetts to Biden by more than 33 percentage points.

Doughty, a Harvard Business School graduate, tried to appeal to what he called the state’s “exhausted middle.” His backing came from more traditional Republicans such as New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who argued that Doughty had the best chance in November.

With none of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation facing primary challengers, much of the focus Tuesday was on state races. One of the most closely watched contests was the Democratic primary for state attorney general, a position that frequently produces candidates for higher office.

During that primary, Campbell won prominent supporters, including Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D), who served with her on the city council, and Healey, who has appeared with her frequently on the campaign trail. Campbell emphasized her personal story on the stump, saying she knows how to turn “pain into purpose.” She grew up in public housing, and her twin brother died while incarcerated.

Warren, along with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and former Boston acting mayor Kim Janey endorsed Liss-Riordan. She ran in the primary on a long legal career that includes pushing for gig workers to have access to employee protections.

Liss-Riordan — once dubbed “Sledgehammer Shannon” by a party she beat in a legal battle and “an avenging angel for workers” by the Boston Globe — helped advise Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign on labor issues and is a longtime donor to the senator.

She has represented workers in legal battles against Uber, American Airlines and Amazon, and she has also waged local fights on behalf of waitstaff. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Elsewhere on the ballot, longtime Democratic Secretary of State William Galvin defeated a primary challenge from Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan. He will face Rayla Campbell, who calls herself a “rule-of-law Republican.”

In the race for lieutenant governor, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who was favored among many state elected officials and activists in the run-up to Tuesday won the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, the candidates were paired off as ticket-mates with the gubernatorial candidates, even though the offices are elected independently.

Diehl ran with former state representative Leah Cole Allen, who initially left politics to focus on her nursing career. She worked on a covid-19 floor in a hospital during the pandemic and then lost her position because she decided not to get a coronavirus vaccine, which prompted her to turn back to politics. Doughty teamed up with former state representative Kate Campanale, who became a history teacher after leaving the State House.

After polls closed across most of Massachusetts Tuesday night, one town, Barnstable, kept polls open until midnight after a broken vault door kept ballots locked inside for most of the day. The city offered emergency ballots for voters who showed up before the problem was resolved; in 2018, the town cast more than 3,000 votes in the GOP primary.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Georgia runoff election: A runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker on Dec. 6 will cap a turbulent election year. Here’s how the runoff will work and what triggered it.

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, experts helped us game out what would happen if he wins again.