Election day is more than three weeks away. But with more than 750,000 ballots already on their way to voters’ mailboxes, how many have already made up their minds?
As of noontime Friday, the secretary of state’s office had registered 1,025,135 applications for mail-in ballots, which clerks began sending out at the end of last week.
If the window to win over voters’ hearts and minds has become more fluid with the permanence of mail-in and early voting, how much effect will it have on the governor’s race?
Candidates Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl finally met up this week for a debate, and there were few surprises with Diehl focusing on pocketbook issues like energy prices, and Healey highlighting Diehl’s connection to former President Donald Trump and his stance on abortion.
Diehl called the Trump talk a “distraction” and said Healey brought up the 45th president because he’s “her boogeyman” and “it’s Halloween time.”
The debate was prefaced by Healey’s Sunday appearance on WCVB’S “On The Record,” where she denied she was playing it safe, or staking out fewer bold positions on the trail.
“You always play like you’re 17 points behind and the surest way to lose any sport and any game is to play it safe. You just have to be who you are,” the attorney general said.
She lobbed an accusation Wednesday that Diehl would try to nix the state’s minimum wage floor, a move that would need to be approved first by the supermajority-Democratic Legislature, which is unlikely at best. That’s created a little flashpoint of post-debate coverage.
State auditor’s race gets contentious
The fireworks might be showier if we check in on the state auditor’s race Sunday, when a pre-taped debate airs on WBZ-TV between Democrat Diana DiZoglio and Republican Anthony Amore. A Boston Globe recap noted that moderator Jon Keller “could barely get a word in edgewise” as the two candidates sparred back and forth.
The Amore/DiZoglio show was taped Thursday morning, so it might not include any mention of Thursday night’s report that DiZoglio was once associated with a “homophobic” church in Alabama.
Frank Phillips, the Globe’s former State House bureau chief, can’t stay away from politics and he’s been digging up some interesting nuggets this campaign season. He wrote that DiZoglio had spent “time in Alabama with The Ramp, (a) virulent homophobic evangelical church,” and pointed this out while DiZoglio was on the campaign trail in western Mass. with Healey, who could become the state’s first openly gay governor.
The local Log Cabin Republicans group quickly denounced DiZoglio’s reported link to a church that it said once featured “pray the gay away” conversions, and Phillips’ tweet seemed to stun former Republican Gov. Jane Swift, who commented, “Wait, what?”
DiZoglio’s campaign responded to State House News Service Friday that the Methuen Democrat “unequivocally denounces gay conversion therapy, and actually helped lead the fight to ban it in Massachusetts in 2018 as a Senator.” She once “sang and danced in church youth groups and also helped counsel young women,” the statement said, but later “charted her own path because her values did not align with those of the church.”
As for the ballot questions before voters this November (and October), organized opposition to Question 3, which would change the state’s liquor licensing laws, only just showed up but they have a heavy pour. Big-box store Total Wine & More on Oct. 5 reported more than $2.1 million in spending to fight the proposed law, MASSterList reported.
Supporters and opponents of the proposed surtax on annual household income over $1 million (Question 1) have been busy fighting it out on stage. There were at least three debates this week alone, including one at the Charles River Chamber between Andrew Farnitano of Fair Share Massachusetts, which backs the question, and Eileen McAnneny of the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation.
Debates are still going on about some ballot questions of yesteryear.
Few lawmakers back redistributing tax relief
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, state Rep. Jamie Belsito, and state Rep. Mike Connolly were out on the Beacon Street sidewalk Thursday pitching a revision to the “Chapter 62F” tax cap law that voters approved in 1986, and which is set to send refunds back to taxpayers this year.
In times of excess tax collections, the law delivers funds back to taxpayers proportional with their earnings, the legislators said, meaning high earners would get the biggest checks in the mail. They want a cap for the tax cap law — a $6,500 limit on the maximum credit high-income earners could receive.
A pork filled court case
And a 2016 ballot measure dealing with humane standards for farm animals could head for the chopping block depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court thinks of a similar California law.
The law governs the sale of pork products based on humane conditions the pigs were raised in, even if they were raised in another state, which a Biden administration attorney said during oral arguments this week “threatens the balkanization of the national economic union.”
Outgoing Baker issues four pardons
Not campaigning for the first time in a few cycles, you can tell Gov. Charlie Baker is preparing for the exit when you look at how busy the Governor’s Council is getting. The elected eight-member council has final say on the guv’s picks for judgeships, lifetime magistrate appointments, Parole Board seats — and clemency for convicted criminals, namely pardons and sentence commutations.
Baker hadn’t sought any pardons over his first seven years and nine months in office. Up until he recommended a couple of commutations earlier this year, the last acts of clemency were some 2014/2015 pardons dropped by Gov. Deval Patrick on his way out the door.
Parole Board Chairwoman Gloriann Moroney is pursuing a judgeship, and just as she came before the Governor’s Council — and faced some criticism of the glacial pace with which her board has been recommending people for pardons and commutations — Baker dropped four pardons in the council’s lap.
The four men Baker tapped for forgiveness served minimal sentences, generally for low-level crimes committed upwards of 25 years ago. Their hearings before the Parole Board encountered no recorded opposition, and their reasons for seeking pardons included security clearance to gain professional advancement and renewing a gun license to deer-hunt with one’s son. (One of them is interested in running for public office, but held off until now because of his prior conviction.)
Councilor Terry Kennedy said he heard through the “rumor mill” that another commutation is around the corner, and Councilor Eileen Duff got Moroney to say that a recommendation is coming soon on a Groveland man’s request for a full pardon after Patrick gave him a conditional one in 2014.
Moroney seemed to have the support of a majority of councilors, and if they confirm her to the bench at next Wednesday’s meeting, watch for Baker’s choice of who will replace her leading an agency that’s reportedly roiled by internal discord and sits at a crossroads in the criminal justice reform movement.
State House Republicans have ‘unusual amount of sway’
Beacon Hill Republicans find themselves with an unusual amount of sway on those hefty spending bills, since the Legislature plans to meet for the rest of the year in informal sessions when individual lawmakers can hit the brakes on any bill they’re concerned about. It would seem that few would want to get in the way, during election season, of a big spending bill that also features tax relief, but time will tell.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones pointed out that Baker can also take an X-Acto knife to spending bills after they land on his desk and trim away any sections that the Republicans find objectionable. It would take a roll call vote, impossible during informal sessions, to override those line-item vetoes.
Jones said he was “not exactly sure what the hang-up is” with the economic development bill, and Democratic leaders have given few clues as to its future.
The branches also have plenty of “smaller” legislation still to sift through. It doesn’t grab the same headlines as something like statewide taxpayer relief, but it means a lot to the local communities. Thanks to the one-paragraph S 3111, the Franklin County town of Bernardston (Population 2,102) gets to keep Lloyd Grover on its Fire Department an extra five years after normal retirement age. Not mentioned in the bill text is the fact that Grover’s their assistant chief. The branches and Baker all signed off Thursday on that one, and there are scores of others like it coming down the pike.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Debate season was still getting underway while thousands of ballots were already moving through the mail.
SONG OF THE WEEK: Will a lukewarm campaign season heat up in its final three weeks, or is this all there is?