Massachusetts (Open Seat)
Outlook: Likely Democratic
September 1, 2006 Update:
The polls are all over the lot on the Democratic primary. While the front-runners continue to be Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli, the one with momentum appears to be Gabrieli. If he emerges as the nominee, the Crystal Ball will be inclined to install him as the favorite over GOP Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. This is a Democratic year in a substantially Democratic state, and after 16 years of Republican governors, it appears that the inevitable is likely to happen–should Gabrieli be the nominee, and possibly even if Patrick is selected.
June 29, 2006 Update:
Readers keep asking us when we are going to clear up the confusion in this Bay State free-for-all. Hey, we’re talking about a state where politics is taken seriously by the voters, not just the politicians. So what is true today may not be true next week. For now, it looks to us as though the 2002 Lt. Gov. nominee Chris Gabrieli is leading the Democratic pack, with AG Tom Reilly (the old frontrunner) and party convention-endorsed Deval Patrick closely bunched for the second pole position. Gabrieli could be tough for GOP Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey to defeat in the fall, especially with independent Christy Mihos taking some of her votes.
June 1, 2006 Update:
This race is still wild and wooly on both sides, and while an observer is tempted to lean it to the Democrats, it is too soon to do that–especially after Republicans have held the governorship consistently since the 1990 election.
March 27, 2006 Update:
Incredibly, Democrats are trying to blow it again in their safest state. Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly had an embarrassing choice for lt. governor–someone who had not paid her taxes and had to quickly withdraw from the race, and the other Democrat, ex-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Deval Patrick, is quite liberal. At the same time, Republican Lt. Governor Kerry Healey does not appear to have the heft of prior Republican winners Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and Mitt Romney.
The entry of Christy Mihos as an independent complicates the picture. While the wealthy Mihos seems to be taking votes from both sides, he is almost certainly hurting Healey more. The Democrats may well win this in the end, and it’s probably time for them to take over the statehouse in the Bay State, but they’re not making it easy on themselves or the voters.
Liberal former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Deval Patrick‘s near-majority victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary exceeded most pre-election expectations, which had pegged his lead somewhat narrower than the 49 percent to 28 perecent to 23 percent blowout result over the two more moderate candidates, Chris Gabrieli and Tom Reilly. Patrick’s charisma and status as a fresh face in Massachusetts electoral politics seemed to give him distinct advantages over his primary rivals, and seem to give him an initial edge over the Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.
Outgoing (and by outgoing we mean literally running away–for president) GOP Gov. Mitt Romney is not nearly popular enough to lift Healey’s chances, and Healey is a somewhat weak candidate who just this week attempted to shift attention to cracking down on illegal immigration at a time when most liberal Bay Staters resent the national GOP’s hard lines. She reminds us more of unsuccessful former stand-in Gov. Jane Swift than others in the surprise GOP line of state executives here–Weld, Cellucci, and Romney. For now, though we approach this race with special caution thanks to the wild card of Independent Christy Mihos’s spirited and serious bid, we tilt this race towards a Democratic homecoming on Beacon Hill that has been 16 years in the making.
Governor Mitt Romney has resurfaced in his home state to take charge of the Big Dig investigation, but he won’t be there for long. As an outgoing governor, he is spending most of his time on the road seeking the presidency; this is not good news for Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, and the Crystal Ball is increasingly of the belief that Democrats will finally retake this governorship, from which they have been absent since 1991. But, the Democrats are fighting like cats and dogs for the nomination, and so until the Democratic nominee emerges–and we see weather he is healthy or bleeding–we will keep this race in the Toss-up category.
Republicans have controlled the governorship of the nation’s most liberal state consistently since 1991. This would be the equivalent of a two-decade run for Democrats in Utah! (There was precisely this kind of Utah Democratic domination from 1965 to 1985. But those were very different times.)
The latest GOP chief executive is the unlikeliest of all, a Mormon and former resident of Utah, Mitt Romney. Despite social views that are culturally more conservative than most residents of the Bay State, Romney won in 2002 for essentially the same reason his three immediate GOP predecessors had triumphed: Voters were unimpressed with the Democratic nominees and probably feared complete Democratic hegemony. After all, Democrats have virtually a one-party state legislature, and they have captured every single U.S. Senate and House seat in Massachusetts–the largest totally Democratic delegation in the Congress.
Republicans will have to aim to make it four consecutive GOP governors in 2006, because Romney has already said he’s not running for re-election. His lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, will be his likely replacement for the GOP nomination.
Healey will have her work cut out in the fall, assuming state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, is the Democratic nominee. He is moderate enough to win the general election, assuming that he can overcome the challenge of liberals such as ex-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat. Sooner or later, Massachusetts will revert to form and elect a Democrat for this vital post, too, so the GOP can take nothing for granted in 2006, or ever.