BOSTON (AP) — Just 20 years ago, voters in Massachusetts had yet to elect a woman governor, attorney general, U.S. senator or mayor of its largest city. This year, Democratic women have won five of six statewide primaries.
2022 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for women seeking political power in Massachusetts, a state that, despite its liberal reputation, has fallen behind when it comes to electing women to the highest offices.
Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey is heavily favored to overthrow the Republican-held governor’s office in November, which would make her the state’s first woman and first openly gay candidate elected chief executive. Andrea Campbell, the former Boston city councilwoman hoping to succeed Healey as attorney general, would be the first black woman to hold the post.
And with the gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates running together in the general election, Healey is set to make history with her running mate, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, by becoming the first female governor. /lieutenant-governor to be elected head of state.
Healey said she’s focused more on issues that matter to voters — like housing costs and transportation — than on the groundbreaking nature of her race.
“I know this is historic. I also know that it is the curriculum vitae. It’s about choosing the people you want in government to better serve and deliver for you and your family,” Healey said a day after winning the Sept. 6 primaries.
This year, Democrats and Republicans nominated women for lieutenant governor. Additionally, Democrats nominated women in the Attorney General, Treasurer and Auditor races, while Republicans nominated a woman for Commonwealth Secretary.
The nominations continue a trend that saw Michelle Wu become Boston’s first woman and first Asian American elected mayor last year.
If Healey were to win in November, she would not be the state’s first female governor, but she would be the first woman to be elected to the position. Republican Jane Swift, then lieutenant governor, became acting governor in 2001 when Paul Cellucci resigned to become ambassador to Canada.
Swift said having more women in power helps defuse the “gender issue”.
“I wish I had never answered another question about sex, not because I wasn’t extremely proud of my accomplishments, but I didn’t run for office because I was a woman,” said she declared. “I ran for office because I thought we needed lower taxes, a better climate for small businesses, and better education.”
“I can’t wait for the day when it won’t be part of the conversation, when women in office can talk about the issues that made them win, not why they think differently because they have a womb.” , she added.
Massachusetts has fallen behind other states in electing women. In 2012, neighboring New Hampshire, considered far less liberal, became the first state to elect an all-female congressional delegation as well as elect a female governor.
One reason for the recent success of women candidates in Massachusetts may be the weakening of the Massachusetts Democratic Party apparatus, said Erin O’Brien, associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
“In the past, one-party control has made it harder for women to get elected because parties only widen their pool of candidates when they feel threatened – and Democrats have not been threatened in Massachusetts,” O’Brien said.
There are signs that the party’s influence may be waning. In 2014, a relatively unknown Healey hired state senator Warren Tolman as attorney general. Tolman had the endorsement of the Democratic Party and a brother who was president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, but Healey easily defeated him and won the general election.
Just this summer, Quentin Palfrey won state party endorsement for attorney general, but dropped out of the race a week before the primary and endorsed Campbell. In the race for state auditor, Chris Dempsey won the party’s endorsement but lost the primary to state senator Diana DiZoglio.
“Part of the reason women are starting to win in Massachusetts is because the Democratic Party is starting to look outside of itself,” O’Brien said. “Women can go against their favorite man and win and not pay out of their careers if they lose.”
U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley, who beat an incumbent to become the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, said the rise of her fellow Democrats is a testament to the “courage, skill and commitment” of each candidate.
“More and more women see themselves in public service, recognizing the critical role their expertise and lived experience play in shaping policy, and choosing to build more inclusive and representative decision-making tables,” said she said in a statement.
“When I won my first campaign for Congress, in 2018, a lot of people called it ‘Black Girl Magic,’ but I know it was ‘Black Woman Work,'” she added.
The party’s bylaws prohibit him from getting involved in contested primaries other than endorsements at the state convention, according to Gus Bickford, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
“Once a candidate is chosen by voters in the primary election, we get to work getting them elected,” Bickford said in a statement. “As we prepare to elect the first team of female governors and lieutenant governors in Massachusetts history, along with other qualified women on the ballot, we are very proud of the role we are playing to support them. .”
The change began in part in 2006, when Martha Coakley became Massachusetts’ first elected female attorney general. Another milestone came in 2012, when Elizabeth Warren defeated incumbent GOP Senator Scott Brown to become the state’s first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Women’s representation in Massachusetts state politics dates back to 1922, when Democrat Susan Fitzgerald and Republican Sylvia Donaldson became the first women elected to the state House of Representatives.
In 1936, Republican Sybil Holmes became the first woman elected to the Massachusetts Senate, but it took another 70 years before Therese Murray became the first woman to serve as President of the Senate.
The number of women in the Legislative Assembly has increased over the past decades.
In 1992, there were only six women serving in the 40-member Massachusetts Senate and 31 in the 160-member Massachusetts House. Thirty years later, the number of women in the Senate has more than doubled to 13, while the number of women in the House stands at 46.
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