Mass. voters weighing stark choice for governor, millionaires tax

MASSACHUSETTS VOTERS go to the polls Tuesdau to decide the commonwealth's next governor and ballot questions. One question would amend the state constitution to impose a 4% surtax on the portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million. Another question would repeal a new law allowing immigrants in the country illegally to obtain state driver’s licenses. / BRYNN ANDERSON / ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOSTON (AP) – Massachusetts voters are weighing starkly different candidates for governor as they cast their ballots.

The election pits Democrat Maura Healey, who would be the state’s first woman and first openly gay candidate elected governor, against Republican Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who was endorsed by Donald Trump.

If elected, Healey would return the governor’s office to Democratic hands for the first time in eight years. The office is currently held by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who opted against seeking a third term.

Diehl, if he wins, would extend the state’s recent history of electing GOP governors. Since 1991, Republicans have held the corner office for all but eight years while Democrat Deval Patrick served as governor.

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Healey and her lieutenant governor candidate, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, are among three all-female governor/lieutenant governor tickets in the U.S. that began Election Day with a chance to become the first such pairing elected to lead a state.

Arkansas Republicans nominated Sarah Huckabee Sanders for governor and Leslie Rutledge for lieutenant governor. And in Ohio, Democrat Nan Whaley is running for governor with Cheryl Stephens as her running mate.

Healey could also become the first openly lesbian candidate elected to be a governor in the country. Democrat Tina Kotek, an openly lesbian candidate for governor in Oregon, is also on the ballot this year.

During the campaign, Healey pledged to expand job training programs, make child care more affordable and modernize schools. Healey has also said she would protect “access to safe and legal abortion in Massachusetts” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The 51-year-old has ticked off what she considers her accomplishments as attorney general, including suing Exxon Mobil over whether the oil giant misled investors and the public about its knowledge of climate change and targeting OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family over allegations they deceived patients and doctors about the risks of opioids.

She also led or joined dozens of lawsuits and legal briefs targeting a raft of Trump policies.

Diehl and his running mate Leah Allen Cole, also a former state representative, have promised to impose fiscal discipline, improve education by empowering parents, and get tough on crime. Diehl also championed a ballot question aimed at repealing a new state law allowing immigrants in the country illegally to obtain Massachusetts drivers licenses.

Diehl, 53, served as co-chair of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Massachusetts, a state that roundly rejected Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Baker, who refused to vote for Trump in both elections, hasn’t endorsed or campaigned for Diehl.

Healey warned Diehl would “bring Trumpism to Massachusetts.”

The two have split on whether the state should repeal the new law giving those in the country illegally the ability to obtain Massachusetts drivers licenses. Healey said the law enhances public safety while Diehl has said it opens the door to drivers using the licenses to illegally register to vote.

The two have also clashed on abortion. Healey said she would protect access to abortion, while Diehl, who hailed the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, said his job would be “to protect people’s health care choices.”

If she wins, Healey — elected eight years ago as the nation’s first openly gay attorney general — would also snap the “curse of the attorney general.” Since 1958, six former Massachusetts attorneys general have sought the governor’s office. All failed.

Diehl was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

In the race for secretary of the commonwealth, Democratic Secretary William Galvin is squaring off against Republican Rayla Campbell, who would be the first Black person to serve in the post.

And in the contest for state auditor, Democratic state Sen. Diana DiZoglio is facing Republican Anthony Amore.

In the race for attorney general Massachusetts  voters are choosing between Democrat Andrea Campbell and Republican Jay McMahon — each hoping to break new ground while highlighting very different priorities during their campaigns.

If elected, Campbell, a former Boston city councilor who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year, would become the first Black woman to serve as the state’s top law enforcement officer, while McMahon would be the first Republican elected to the post since the 1960s.

Campbell has promised a focus on equity while McMahon has vowed to target crime and corruption.

Campbell has also spoken openly about her father’s and brothers’ involvement in the criminal justice system, including her twin brother Andre who died in state custody.

Ballot questions

Two of the most closely watched contests to be decided by voters in Massachusetts are ballot questions — one that would create a tax aimed at millionaires and another that would repeal a law allowing those in the country illegally to obtain a state driver’s license.

Ballot question No. 1 would add an amendment to the state constitution imposing a 4% surtax on the portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million.

Those making up to $1 million, but not exceeding that amount, wouldn’t pay new taxes.

Supporters — including labor unions, community organizations and religious groups — have argued that the new tax would generate about $2 billion in annual revenue that could be used for education and transportation.

Opponents, including business groups, warned the measure could end up costing jobs and driving away some of the state’s wealthiest citizens.

The state’s constitution currently requires all income be taxed at uniform rates. The $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases.

A second question — No. 4 on the ballot — would repeal a new law allowing immigrants in the country illegally to obtain state driver’s licenses.

The measure became law after the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts House and Senate overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in June.

Under the new law, those in the country illegally will be able to apply for a driver’s license if they can provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles with a foreign passport or consular identification document.

They must also provide one of five additional documents: a driver’s license from another U.S. state or territory; a birth certificate; a foreign national identification card; a foreign driver’s license; or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state or territory.

The new law is set to take effect July 1, 2023.

The law was a win for immigrant rights groups that had long pushed for the measure, framing it as a public safety measure. They said those seeking licenses will have to show they can properly operate a car and will be less likely to flee after a crash.

Critics, including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and GOP candidate for governor Geoff Diehl, said the law could make it easier for those in the country illegally to be able to vote. Supporters say the law prohibits immigrants without legal permission to reside in the U.S. from being automatically registered to vote.

Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.

There are two other questions on the ballot.

Question No. 2, if approved, would regulate dental insurance rates, including requiring companies to spend at least 83% of premiums on member dental expenses and quality improvements instead of administrative expenses, and by making other changes to dental insurance regulations.

Question No. 3, if approved, would increase the number of licenses a retailer could have for the sale of alcoholic beverages to be consumed off premises, limit the number of “all-alcoholic beverages” licenses a retailer could acquire, restrict use of self-checkout, and require retailers to accept customers’ out-of-state identification.

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