Autumn won’t officially begin for another 13 days, but apart from the equinox, most indicators of the changing season have already come and gone.
Labor Day, that final burst of summertime leisure, spilled right into a rainy primary election that sealed the field for Republican-versus-Democrat campaigns across Massachusetts. Students shuffled back to schools and colleges, many of them staring down a frustrating-yet-functional network of shuttle buses replacing MBTA subway service. Oh, and the NFL is back, but legal wagering on those games likely remains months away.
The victors of contests up and down the ballot can now shift their focus away from competing with members of their own party and toward appealing to an inevitably larger pool of voters who turn out for general elections.
We pretty much knew for months that Attorney General Maura Healey would lead the Democratic bid to flip the governor’s office, and now she has company at the top of the ticket.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, buoyed by both local connections and a flurry of super PAC spending in her favor, cruised to victory in the three-way Democratic primary for lieutenant governor over state Sen. Eric Lesser and state Rep. Tami Gouveia.
Across the figurative aisle, former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who touted the support of former President Donald Trump, topped businessman Chris Doughty in the Republican gubernatorial primary, while former state Rep. Leah Cole Allen joined her running-mate in victory by beating former state Rep. Kate Campanale in that lieutenant governor primary.
That outcome wasn’t exactly surprising since Diehl had been leading in polls, but it cemented the party’s Trumpward shift, leaving in the dust the more moderate strain of Republicanism that proved successful for Gov. Charlie Baker and a string of his predecessors in the corner office.
MassGOP leadership under Chair Jim Lyons had long embraced the former president, and now, Massachusetts voters have advanced a candidate endorsed by Trump to serve as the party’s electoral figurehead for at least the next two months. Then again, voters didn’t exactly get a push toward another option from the party’s moderate wing, which mostly spent the race on the sidelines.
The only Republican statewide candidate endorsed by Baker, who has enjoyed immense popularity during his two terms in office but appeared likely to hit intraparty turbulence if he ran again, is auditor hopeful Anthony Amore.
Baker so far has taken a similar approach to endorsements as former Gov. Jane Swift. When she joined Amore to announce her support this week, Swift was asked if she planned to roll out endorsements for any other Republican statewide hopefuls. She responded with a curt but resounding “No.”
“I think it’s important to win elections,” Swift replied when pressed on the party’s rightward shift.
Amore will face off against state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, who beat transportation advocate Chris Dempsey in a tight race filled with sharp elbows for the Democratic auditor nomination.
DiZoglio on Tuesday succeeded where her peers failed: she was the only sitting lawmaker who won a primary this cycle for a statewide position. Lesser and Gouveia stumbled in the lieutenant governor race, Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz lost big after suspending her campaign for governor months ago, and state Sen. Adam Hinds failed even to make the ballot for lieutenant governor.
Not only did DiZoglio buck the trend this cycle, she did it against the current of her own chamber’s leadership after Senate President Karen Spilka and other party bigwigs endorsed Dempsey.
The Methuen Democrat has clashed with and called out legislative leaders, a practice that in the top-down mode of politics in the Legislature often results in a lawmaker getting relegated to a backbench role or fading into obscurity. In this case, though, DiZoglio continued her ascension toward an even larger office.
She’s now one of seven women who won a major party’s nomination for a constitutional office, joining fellow victors Healey, Driscoll, Allen, Andrea Campbell in the Democratic primary for attorney general, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, and Republican secretary of state nominee Rayla Campbell.
Before her successor takes office, Auditor Suzanne Bump, serving her final months in office, has a decision on her hands that could resolve more than six weeks of uncertainty, bickering and paralysis on Beacon Hill.
Bump by Sept. 20 must certify how much excess tax revenue Massachusetts collected in fiscal year 2022. The Baker administration expects a pot of $2.94 billion to flow back to taxpayers under a 1986 law referred to as Chapter 62F, an amount it projects would leave lawmakers a surplus of about $2.3 billion.
So far, Bump has given little indication if those numbers are right. She wrote to lawmakers on Aug. 5 to detail the audit steps required before her final determination, and otherwise has stayed quiet on the topic.
None of the state’s top financial officials who attended a Comptroller Advisory Board meeting — including Bump, Comptroller William McNamara, and Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan — took the opportunity to make any reference to 62F or tax relief.
It’s now closeout budget season on Beacon Hill, too, but even that is mired in the silent stillness that hangs over much legislative activity. McNamara hopes to see the final supplemental budget bill signed into law by the end of September in order to meet his own Oct. 31 deadline to file an annual state financial report.
He might wind up putting in late hours to fulfill that goal, if McNamara’s able to finish the Statutory Basis Financial Report in October at all. The spending and tax relief proposal still needs to emerge from the House Ways and Means Committee, clear both branches, receive possible vetoes or amendments from Baker, and secure the governor’s signature, which is a lot of steps for the three weeks remaining in September.
A more positive deadline is approaching sooner than that: the end of the full Orange Line and partial Green Line shutdowns.
Service on both is set to resume Sept. 19, and MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said Friday that crews have completed two-thirds of the scheduled work. The T has bolstered its unprecedented effort using about $36 million in third-party contracts for maintenance and construction, plus the still-undisclosed costs incurred by MBTA crews.
Shuttle buses endured their toughest test yet this week when Boston Public Schools and the thousands of its students who rely on the Orange Line kicked off the 2022-2023 school year, not to mention the influx of college students for the fall semester.
The frustrations and delays remained, but there appeared to be no major crises.
How’s that for a motto? Maybe that new spokesperson the MBTA wants to hire can adopt it.
STORY OF THE WEEK: The general election campaign is underway, schools are back in session, and baseball teams chasing the playoffs are competing with the nascent NFL season for viewers. It might as well be fall.
SONG OF THE WEEK: So much for the summer of the primary. We bid you farewell.