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High marks and warning signs for Healey

Presented by Delta Dental of Massachusetts: Lisa Kashinsky and Kelly Garrity's must-read rundown of what's up on Beacon Hill and beyond.
Oct 23, 2023 View in browser

By Lisa Kashinsky

Presented by

With help from Kelly Garrity

GRADING THE GOVERNOR — The MBTA is a mess. The state’s emergency shelter system is about to hit capacity. The housing crisis continues to keep homes and apartments out of reach. And at the same time, hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks are benefiting low-income families, renters and seniors, and heirs and corporations.

It’s against that backdrop that UMass Amherst and WCVB polled 700 Bay Staters’ views of Gov. Maura Healey nearly 10 months into the Democrat's tenure. The results of the Oct. 13-20 survey are mixed.

THE GOOD NEWS FOR HEALEY: The new governor’s approval rating sits at a solid 58 percent. Her disapproval rating is 27 percent. That’s roughly unchanged from the results from UMass Amherst’s April poll.

Healey also notched a higher approval rating than the state’s two senators, Attorney General Andrea Campbell and the state Legislature — though some of those gaps are also within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.

And pluralities of respondents say Healey is doing at least “somewhat well” when it comes to handling the economy, taxes and education.

THE BAD NEWS FOR HEALEY: Pluralities also hold negative views of how Healey is handling the migrant surge, the MBTA and transportation writ large.

And a majority of respondents, 51 percent, think the new governor is doing “not too well” or “not well at all” in tackling the state’s housing shortages and affordability issues. A note here: This survey was conducted after Healey signed into law a $1 billion package of tax cuts and credits. But most of it was conducted before she rolled out the $4.1 billion bond bill that serves as her housing policy blueprint.

These results are a “warning” to Healey that “even though her approval ratings are high, there are issues that could potentially adversely affect her tenure as governor,” UMass Amherst polling director Tatishe Nteta told Playbook.

As for how Healey stacks up against her Republican predecessor: Majorities of respondents felt Charlie Baker handled the economy and taxes better. They gave Healey higher marks on climate change, reproductive rights and child care. That mostly mirrors views of the two parties nationally, with Republicans seen as better on the economy and Democrats preferred on abortion and climate change.

THE TAKEAWAY: “Healey has maintained the popularity that won her this office. She is in this honeymoon phase. And that’s beneficial to pushing through the legislation she wants to get done,” Nteta said. “She did that on taxes. Now the question is can she do that on migrants and the housing crisis and the T? This is the time to strike.”

Many of the potentially politically damaging issues Healey is facing are ones that she inherited from her predecessor or that are being driven in some part by factors beyond her control.

Case in point: Healey placed blame for one of the T’s latest and “absolutely unacceptable” failures — that tracks on the Green Line extension are too narrow — squarely on management under the Baker administration who knew about the issue as far back as April 2021 and who lacked "either the competence or the wherewithal to do what was necessary to run the T," she said on WBZ’s “Keller @ Large,”

But it’s up to Healey’s team to fix the system, and she’s not shying away from the challenge. “You are entitled and have every right to look at someone like me with skepticism, because you’ve seen this movie before,” Healey told host Jon Keller when he noted she’s not the first governor to pledge to fix the T. But “I’m governor now. And I am going to do everything I can because public transit — it’s an imperative.”

GOOD MONDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. The GOP presidential primary returns to the region today with action on both sides of the state line. Frontrunner and former President Donald Trump is filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot in Concord and rallying supporters in Derry. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be collecting checks in Boston and holding a meet-and-greet with the MassGOP.

TODAY — Healey and AG Andrea Campbell discuss plans to advance representation in higher education at 10 a.m. at UMass Boston. Healey visits an EV-battery manufacturing facility at 11:30 a.m. in Methuen; joins House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka for a leadership meeting at 2 p.m. at the State House; and attends an event at Tufts Medical Center at 6:30 p.m.

Tips? Scoops? Still riding high from the Pats win? (Woo!). Email us: [email protected] and [email protected].


A message from Delta Dental of Massachusetts:

Don’t let cavities rain on your parade. Delta Dental of Massachusetts is committed to educating communities around the state, rain or shine, about the importance of oral health. Your oral health is a key predictor of overall health and can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and other health concerns later in life. A healthy smile is a powerful thing, so speak with your dentist and learn more at


WHAT THEY’RE SAYING — It wouldn’t be a UMass Amherst/WCVB poll without a word cloud. When asked for one word to describe the new governor, “good” and “smart” and “strong” were among the most common responses. “Liberal” and “progressive” are also up there. So were some negatives, like “useless” and “incompetent.”

Descriptions of Gov. Maura Healey in an October UMass Amherst/WCVB poll | Screenshot of UMass Amherst/WCVB poll

“‘Listening sessions’ begin a month after birthing center closes,” by Brendan Lewis, Sentinel and Enterprise: “The state will be holding ‘listening sessions’ this coming week as part of the review of maternity care access ordered by Gov. Maura Healey in the wake of the birthing center closure on Sept. 23.”

But the Massachusetts Nurses Association says the sessions were “hastily arranged” with “no concerted outreach to existing community coalitions, advocates or legislators” — moves the union says “call into question the state’s true commitment to addressing” maternal health.


“Providers support limits to Massachusetts emergency shelter capacity,” by Chris Van Buskirk, Boston Herald: “For Mark DeJoie, the head of North Shore human services provider Centerboard, Inc., the need to limit the number of people in the state’s emergency shelter system boils down to a simple ‘math problem.’ ‘There’s just too many people for too few units.’”


“Three of nine charges dropped against City Councilor Kendra Lara in Jamaica Plain crash last summer,” by John R. Ellement and Nick Stoico, Boston Globe: “Charges of speeding, reckless driving, and a seat belt violation were dropped Friday against Boston City Councilor Kendra R. Lara in connection to a car crash last summer in Jamaica Plain that injured her 7-year-old son, according to court records."

“Allegations of an inappropriate text, toxic work environment directed at Boston City Hall Cabinet chief,” by Danny McDonald, Boston Globe: “The City of Boston paid $40,000 in severance to a former employee who had accused [Brianna Millor,] a City Hall Cabinet chief to Mayor Michelle Wu of fostering a toxic work environment and threatened to sue for discrimination and retaliation, according to city records.”

ICYMI — “After 30 years of silence, Althea Garrison is claiming her place in LGBTQ+ history,” by Kate Sosin, The 19th: “Garrison, 83, is thought to be the first transgender person to be elected to a state legislature. This fact has largely been known since her election in 1992 but never confirmed until an interview in late September with The 19th, when Garrison confirmed to the media for the first time that she is trans. … For Garrison, her reason for sharing is [simple]: It’s her last race. She wants to win this one.”


A message from Delta Dental of Massachusetts:


FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — House Majority Leader Michael Moran, state Rep. Kevin Honan and District 9 City Councilor Liz Breadon are endorsing Henry Santana in the at-large Boston City Council race, according to his campaign. Breadon is the fourth incumbent councilor to back Santana.

“Sarno won’t appear in 2 Springfield mayoral candidate debates as Hurst cries foul,” by Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican.

“City clerk says candidate used his photo on campaign mailer without permission,” by Marco Cartolano, Telegram & Gazette.


GO INSIDE THE CAPITOL DOME: From the outset, POLITICO has been your eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, providing the most thorough Congress coverage — from political characters and emerging leaders to leadership squabbles and policy nuggets during committee markups and hearings. We're stepping up our game to ensure you’re fully informed on every key detail inside the Capitol Dome, all day, every day. Start your day with Playbook AM, refuel at midday with our Playbook PM halftime report and enrich your evening discussions with Huddle. Plus, stay updated with real-time buzz all day through our brand new Inside Congress Live feature. Learn more and subscribe here.


MBTA MESS — Riders were forced to evacuate trolleys and walk on tracks to nearby stations as electrical problems hit the Green Line two days in a row.

FWIW, even as Gov. Maura Healey blames Baker administration MBTA officials for not disclosing the other Green Line Problem (those too-narrow GLX tracks we mentioned above) she’s not skewering Baker himself. “I have no information suggesting that he knew” about the situation, Healey told WBZ.


WARREN RESPONDS — More than 360 former staffers who worked on Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign have now signed onto an open letter pressing her to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

“I respect my former staffers, who are doing exactly what I have always encouraged them to do — stand up and fight for what they believe in,” Warren said Friday.

But she still isn’t calling for de-escalation. Her former staffers told Playbook on Sunday that they’re requesting a meeting with Warren’s office “to discuss the urgent need for a ceasefire.”

Meanwhile, at a Needham synagogue on Sunday, Jewish military veteran Rep. Jake Auchincloss dismissed calls for de-escalation as “premature and counterproductive,” per the Boston Globe.


A message from Delta Dental of Massachusetts:

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“Cunningham no longer with Amherst school system,” by Scott Merzbach, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham, placed on a paid administrative leave last spring pending the outcome of a Title IX investigation into possible gender-based discrimination against students, is no longer working for the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools, according to the interim superintendent.”

“Easthampton council moves to oppose book bans,” by Maddie Fabian, Daily Hampshire Gazette.


“Massachusetts has ‘put some real juice’ behind Cape bridges project, Biden adviser says,” by Matt Stout, Boston Globe: “Huddled in a small conference room at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, Healey administration officials, and local leaders pitched Mitch Landrieu, a senior Biden adviser, on the importance of replacing the 88-year-old Sagamore and Bourne bridges. … [Landrieu] applauded the ‘intense cooperation’ behind the push for federal money, as well as the state’s larger commitment to the project.”

“Investigation confirms pattern of racism at Massachusetts Convention Center Authority,” by Tori Bedford, GBH News.

“Inmates on hunger strike at maximum security prison, call on AG Campbell to investigate alleged assault by correctional officers,” by Ivy Scott, Boston Globe.


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“Democrat Dean Phillips plans to launch a presidential bid in New Hampshire — maybe,” by Elena Schneider and Nicholas Wu, POLITICO.

DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Businessman Perry Johnson suspended his long-shot campaign for the GOP presidential nomination on Friday. But he still plans to file for the New Hampshire primary ballot, just in case.


SPOTTED — Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Alden & Harlow in Cambridge on Saturday, per a Playbook tipster.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Anastasia Nicolaou, VP of policy and public affairs at NAOIP Massachusetts married Sebastian Daou, engagement manager at Trinity Life Sciences, on Saturday in Simsbury, Conn. The couple met at a Friendsgiving gathering in 2021. In attendance were a number of Deval Patrick, Liberty Square Group and Barbara Lee alumni.

TRANSITIONS — Former Acting Gov. Jane Swift will be the next president of the nonprofit Education at Work, per BostInno’s Hannah Green.

— Ashley White will be joining the state Department of Early Education and Care as director of research.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Molly Drennan and Annika Lichtenbaum. Happy belated to Stephanie Cutter of Precision Strategies and Naysa Woomer, who celebrated Sunday; Will Baldwin, who celebrated Saturday; and Robert Pinsky, who celebrated Friday.

Want to make an impact? POLITICO Massachusetts has a variety of solutions available for partners looking to reach and activate the most influential people in the Bay State. Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness among this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected].


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High marks and warning signs for Healey


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