So far, voters have been told it’s a campaign for the highest office in the state. But not much beyond that.
“We haven’t seen anything. She remains a perfect political chalice, but it’s not clear what’s inside,” said Lou DiNatale, a Massachusetts veteran pollster tracking the Democratic gubernatorial primary between Healey and state Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz of Jamaica Plain. “People are looking for leadership. It’s got to be a combination of what she did — and what she’s going to do.”
Aides to Healey’s campaign — first launched 11 weeks ago with a pitch to “continue with what’s working and fix what’s not” — said that, as attorney general, she’s already built a record on housing and climate change, and that voters can soon expect an “aggressive agenda” on the latter.
Healey’s campaign did not make her available for an interview. But in response to Globe questions, it began sketching some details of her platform, including plans to expand down payment assistance for homeowners or electrify parts of the state’s public transportation. Healey, like Chang-Díaz, said she also backs a bill currently before the Legislature that would limit what families have to pay for child care.
“People know who Maura is, what her values are, and who she will stand for as governor,” campaign spokeswoman Karissa Hand said in an e-mail. “Maura has been laying out her vision — on economic mobility, housing, climate, child care, and more — and will continue to do so throughout this campaign.”
But so far, Healey’s pitch has leaned on her eight-year record as attorney general. She touts her frequent lawsuit against the Trump administration — she sued it “probably over 100 times,” she’s estimated — and aggressive litigation on opioids, which serve both to highlight why most voters know her and, she’s argued, help explain what’s important to her .
“Honestly, I don’t think anybody’s confused here in Massachusetts about my policy positions,” Healey, 51, said in an appearance last month on The New York Times podcast, “Sway.”
What they’d be as governor is murkier. When “Sway” host Kara Swisher prodded Healey on what issues she would first pivot to as governor, Healey said there are a “whole bunch of things.”
“All right, can you give me a specific?” Swisher asked.
When Healey again said “there are so many,” Swisher pressed. “Give me one,” she said. “Come on, throw me a bone.”
Healey responded, saying a new governor needs to build a team, before citing the importance of “modernizing” the state’s energy grid. She listed off other issues that need addressing — access to mental health services, high child-care costs, and workforce training — but gave a little flavor of how she believes the state should specifically fix them.
“I mean, there are, as I say, hundreds of day-one actions,” Healey said. “But I think what people are really looking for is trust in somebody.”
For a well-known official such as Healey, such ambiguity is not uncommon — particularly with so much time left before the Sept. 6 primary and so few ready to focus on the race. Twice-elected statewide, Healey entered the race with more name recognition, money, and built-in support than Chang-Díaz, dulling the need to distinguish herself with the type of high-profile pronouncements other candidates commonly use to elevate their campaigns.
Conversely, Chang-Díaz’s website lays out lengthy policy platforms on nearly a dozen issues ranging from education, which she’s made a centerpiece of her campaign, to transportation, to LGBTQ rights.
Chang-Díaz’s platform web pages link to news articles, studies, and votes the senator has taken while serving on Beacon Hill, going into great detail with bulleted lists of actions she would take as governor. She’s been endorsed by groups like Progressive Massachusetts, which require lengthy, detailed questionnaires. Chang-Díaz’s was 48 pages long.
Healey did not file a questionnaire with the group, and thus did not partake in its endorsement process. Instead, Healey’s campaign sent the group an e-mail with an abbreviated version of her record as attorney general.
Chang-Diaz, too, seized on her opponent’s Lack of platform as a campaign issue, openly challenging Healey to televised debates before June, citing her less-than-detailed approach. (Healey instead committed to doing two debates before September.)
“It’s easy to say pretty words, as voters have seen again and again from politicians. It’s a different thing to offer concrete plans to actually address the biggest issues our state faces,” Chang-Díaz said in a statement to the Globe. “I don’t know why anyone else would run for this office if it’s not to fight for the specific policies Bay Staters need.”
Last Monday, Healey spent time in Brockton campaigning; She toured a cultural arts building and met with business leaders and city officials at the local Cape Verdean Association. There, she shook hands and snapped photos with local property managers, salon owners, and restaurateurs.
“I’m going to have the biggest arts agenda,” she said while touring the Stacy Adams Cultural Arts Building in Brockton, but offered no further details. Later, in a short address at the front of the meeting room at the Cape Verdean Association — a podium set up for a speech was removed from the room before she — she acknowledged the concerns of the residents and said she will be the governor to help them.
We’ll do it [the] Brockton way, which is everybody coming together,” she said.
Healey didn’t take questions from the three reporters present.
The lack of specifics hasn’t appeared to hurt Healey. She’s raised $1.45 million since launching her endorsement campaign, and is widely expected to win the state party’sment at its June 4 convention.
Other factors — say a candidate’s personality, or the broader political environment — can also influence decision-making, beyond a campaign’s specific plans. In her 2012 race to topple then-Senator Scott Brown, Elizabeth Warren appealed to voters who “were looking for someone who would stand up for them” at a time when the country was emerging from the recession, said Steve Koczela, president of The MassINC Polling Group.
Two years earlier, Brown had turned his regular-guy image — complete with a barn coat and pickup truck — into victory by riding a wave of anti-establishment sentiment coursing throughout the country.
“It’s not always the issue profile” that matters most, Koczela said.
Healey supporters argue that the lack of specifics is largely a function of time. She did not officially launch her campaign until late January, seven months after Chang-Díaz leapt into the race and nearly two months after Governor Charlie Baker said he wasn’t seeking reelection.
It also wasn’t until mid-March that Healey hired her current campaign manager, Jason Burrell, an attorney and former special assistant to Warren. Phil Johnston, a former Democratic Party chairman who is backing Healey, said he expects her to release more specific proposals “over the next couple of months” and to use her address at the state party’s June convention to honey her pitch.
“It will be a very substantive campaign. She hears what people are saying,” Johnston said of Healey. “She’s a smart, policy-oriented public official, and she knows she’s going to have to prepare closely and carefully for the debates.”
A pair of upcoming forums could tease more specifics from her, including an April 27 forum that’s focused on climate change and the environment — an issue Healey and Chang-Díaz have both pushed to the forefront of their campaigns.
But even small personal touches — light-hearted biographical details that help paint the person behind the politician — have sometimes been tough to nail down. Asked to name her favorite band during a “fun little” lightning round during a WBUR interview in early February, Healey couldn’t say.
“Too many to name,” she told host Tiziana Dearing.
Dearing also asked whether she prefers to fold laundry or do dishes. “I like doing both,” Healey said.
The topic that elicited her strongest stance: Healey said she doesn’t like drinking iced coffee in the winter.