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Chang-Diaz drops out of governor race

Will use resources to support group of progressive Democrats

Adam Reilly
Chang-Diaz drops out of governor race
Sonia Chang Diaz gathers with Democratic candidates she is supporting. PHOTO: ADAM REILLY

Democratic state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz ended her campaign for governor Thursday, saying that after painstaking reflection, she’s determined that she simply cannot win.

“During my time on Beacon Hill, I have never shied away from being honest, even when it is hard,” Chang-Díaz said at a press conference in Jamaica Plain, one year to the day after launching her bid in the neighborhood. “And that’s why I’m being honest with my supporters today. I have looked at the numbers every way — every which way — and unfortunately, there is no path that I can responsibly, in good faith, lead my supporters on that results in me becoming governor this year.”

Chang-Díaz was the first Latina elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and was vying for a chance to become both the first woman and woman of color elected to serve as governor.

As she announced her decision, Chang-Díaz deviated in several ways from the standard script for candidates who are bowing out.

She vowed to spend the rest of the 2022 campaign season working to elect a slate of like-minded candidates, who she dubbed “Courage Democrats,” in order to shake up the state’s Democrat-dominated political establishment.

“Rather than asking people for their vote for governor, I am asking for your time, energy, and dedication to the project of building courage on Beacon Hill for the long term,” Chang-Díaz said. “Instead of campaigning to ask people to vote for me, I am announcing a slate of [candidates] that I will be asking my supporters to marshal behind.

Those candidates — state representative hopefuls Vivian Birchall, Raul Fernandez and Sam Montaño; Suffolk County district attorney candidate Ricardo Arroyo; and Plymouth County district attorney candidate Rahsaan Hall — flanked Chang-Díaz as she announced the end of her candidacy.

In addition, Chang-Díaz spoke coolly of the other Democrat on the primary ballot, Attorney General Maura Healey. Instead of offering even grudging praise for her former rival, Chang-Díaz stated that she “will, of course, support the Democratic nominee.”

Chang-Díaz also said that even though she’s no longer running for governor, she’ll keep her name on the Democratic primary ballot.

“I am keeping my name on the ballot because I think the voters of Massachusetts deserve to have options when deciding who to vote for, and because it’s an historic step forward to have gotten the first woman of color on the ballot for governor of Massachusetts,” she said.

While Healey entered the governor’s race in January, after Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced he would not seek a third term, Chang-Díaz announced her candidacy seven months earlier, vowing to bring “bold, transformative change” to Massachusetts.

As polling and fundraising totals reinforced the sense that Healey was the heavy favorite, Chang-Díaz cast herself as a bolder, more progressive alternative to the frontrunner.

In her speech at the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s June convention in Worcester, Chang-Díaz touted her support for debt-free public higher education, fare-free-public transit and Medicare for All, and urged the assembled delegates to think more ambitiously.

“Put courage over politics, starting right now,” Chang-Díaz said in her convention speech. “Start the next chapter of courage in this party. Find the next set of heroes who will make the difference between accepting the status quo and winning justice for those who lack it.”

Fernandez, one of the candidates Chang-Díaz is vowing to back, spoke immediately after her announcement and echoed her belief that the Democrats who control the Massachusetts House and Senate have fallen short.

The Legislature “has yet to pass many of the policies that I and other [Democrats] have voted onto our party’s platform,” Fernandez said. “We cannot, in this state, blame others for the inadequacies of our policies. We need to own them.”

After Fernandez’s remarks, Chang-Díaz said the demise of her gubernatorial bid shouldn’t be taken as evidence that voters aren’t interested in the policies she was proposing.

“I hear a deep resonance between the values and platform that this campaign has put forward, and the voters that I have met with and talked with constantly over the campaign over the past twelve months,” Chang-Díaz said.

“There are real structural barriers to outsider candidates, to nontraditional candidates … to winning statewide office, and we have to be frank about that,” she added. “There’s going to be a lot of time for conversation about that after September 6. But right now, we have a job to do.”

In a tweet, Healey thanked Chang-Díaz for running and said her “historic campaign” would “[have] a lasting legacy — the young girls across the state who finally saw themselves represented in a candidate for the highest office.”

Adam Reilly is a reporter at GBH-TV’s Greater Boston.