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With the Massachusetts primaries over, general election campaigning has begun

Geoff Diehl, Republican candidate for governor, campaigns in East Bridgewater.
Anthony Brooks
Geoff Diehl, Republican candidate for Governor, campaigns in East Bridgewater.

With primary elections over, Massachusetts voters are set to pick a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and state auditor in November. Some recent polls have put Democrat Maura Healey ahead of Republican Geoff Diehl by a sizable margin in the race for governor. Matt Murphy of the State House News Service explains where, if we dig into the poll data, we expect to see the campaigns try to edge each other out.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Well, one thing is clear: I don't think you're going to see the crossover appeal in this election that we saw when Governor Baker ran and a number of Democrats ended up voting for him over his Democratic opponent. The most recent poll out after the primary from the Emerson College Polling Group shows that Republicans, and Democrats, are pretty split in their preferences for this.

But the Independents, which is the vast majority of voters in Massachusetts, is where this election will be decided. And currently, it looks like Geoff Diehl is doing somewhat well among Independents. He's actually leading Attorney General Maura Healey, according to this poll, among that group of voters.

The question is, can he drive up the numbers enough to overcome her advantage among Democrats? You'll also see Diehl, I think, look to capitalize on people's fears and anxiety over the state of the economy that continues to poll as the number one issue on voters minds. Diehl, as well as Healey, we've seen her also, have a central economic message to their campaigns. And they're going to be fighting it out over this bloc of voters as we get deeper into the fall.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Well, speaking of money, having a well-funded campaign didn't ensure the victory of some candidates in last week's primary. Running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, Shannon Liss-Riordan had a $9 million ad campaign, yet she lost to Andrea Campbell. Historically, does the volume of a war chest affect the odds of winning in a general election?

I mean, there is no doubt that money helps, and it helped in this race. It's certainly helped Shannon Liss-Riordan overcome a big name recognition gap that she had early in the campaign when Andrea Campbell looked like she was far and away leading this race.

But I think what we saw in the primary was that money can only get you so far. It may get you in front of voters. But then, if your opponents can also get their message out, which Andrea Campbell could do in that race, you know, Geoff Diehl was able to get his message out despite being outspent by the personal wealth of Chris Doughty in the GOP (Republican) primary, you still need to build a coalition to get you over the top.

And sometimes when you're raising your own money and not putting it in yourself out of your own bank account, it can help with that. You build a network of volunteers, donors, activists, and that can help spread your message to not just television and get you over the hump.

Well-funded campaigns. That was also the case in the open western Massachusetts seat on the governor's council, that body that votes on nominations for judges and parole board members, as well as pardons and commutations. Tara Jacobs, a North Adams School Committee member, beat three much better funded lawyers from Hampden County. Now, she was the only woman, and she was the only non-lawyer in the race. You've covered the governor's council when it meets in Boston. Does it matter if a member isn't a lawyer?

I mean, it doesn't necessarily matter, no. But certainly a familiarity with the legal system does help. What we've seen on the council, generally, is a majority here of the elected members are lawyers. They have experience in the courtroom. And you can see this reflected in the questioning that they bring to judges, depending on what court a nominee may be headed towards or nominated by the governor for a judgeship. Or, you know, the lawyers on the council can ask these candidates questions about how they would handle very specific cases, very specific legal questions that may arise... Circumstances that a non-lawyer may not be familiar with.

But, you know, we've seen a constant Marilyn Devaney have a very long run on the council. She is not a lawyer. And, you know, there are other issues here that people are looking for in their judges demeanor and judicial conduct and other things that you don't necessarily need a legal background for. So, you know, a variety of skill sets can help on the governor's council as with any body.

Jacobs still must beat Republican John Comerford of Palmer in November to get on the governor's council.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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