Updated March 24 at 5:59 p.m.
Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz is asking her opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Attorney General Maura Healey, to commit to three live, in-person debates before the state Democratic Party convention in early June.
“Democrats deserve to hear publicly from their candidates for governor on the important issues facing us today,” Chang-Díaz wrote to Healey in a letter obtained by GBH News. “This moment calls for leadership that is willing to answer the tough questions and provide fearless commitment to the residents we serve. … [T]he people of our great state deserve the opportunity to hear from us together, directly, and in-person.”
A representative for Healey’s campaign responded to GBH News’ requests for comment Thursday afternoon without specifically committing to the debates.
“Since launching her campaign two months ago, Maura has been traveling the state participating in dozens of caucuses and candidate forums,” Karissa Hand, a campaign spokesperson, told GBH News. “She has been talking directly with delegates and voters to hear from them and answer their questions. She looks forward to continuing to engage with voters throughout this campaign and participating in forums and debates before the primary election to share her vision and ensure voters know where the candidates stand on the issues.”
Chang-Díaz entered the governor’s race in June 2021, vowing to pursue “bold, transformative change” if she reaches the Corner Office. Healey launched her campaign in January 2022, nearly two months after Governor Charlie Baker, the Republican incumbent, announced he wouldn’t seek a third term, and has struck a more moderate tone thus far in her pitch to voters.
Healey has been described as the Democratic frontrunner ever since she jumped in, and there’s reason to think that assessment has merit. In late January, the MassINC Polling Group found that Healey was backed by 48% of likely Democratic primary voters, compared to 12% for Chang-Díaz and 3% for Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen, who has since left the race.
Healey also enjoys a massive financial advantage. Recent filings with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance show her with $4.26 million cash on hand, compared to $351,000 for Chang-Díaz.
But the Chang-Díaz campaign still sees a path to victory. A memo sent to supporters during the recently concluded Democratic caucuses, during which delegates to the party’s upcoming convention were selected, asserted that the “vast majority” of delegates remain undecided in the gubernatorial primary. The memo also argued that Chang-Díaz can win the Democratic nomination by assembling a coalition of progressives, working-class voters, and voters of color, and by contrasting herself with Healey on issues including education, healthcare, and racial justice.
The Democrats’ upcoming convention will determine which candidates appear on the primary ballot this September, when voters will select the party’s nominees for the 2022 general election. To make the ballot, candidates need to receive the support of at least 15% of delegates. The convention also determines which candidates receive the party’s official endorsement.
Update: This story was updated to include a response from Healey’s campaign.