The 1 constant in Massachusetts midterm races: Trump
BOSTON (AP) — There’s no escaping the impact President Donald Trump has had on the midterm elections, even in Massachusetts where polling shows him to be deeply unpopular with the majority of the state’s voters.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez has tried to take Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to task for not being forceful enough in his criticism of Trump, even though the incumbent has repeatedly rebuked White House policy and the president himself over the past couple of years.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a possible presidential contender in 2020, has often used her Republican challenger Geoff Diehl as a foil for Trump as she seeks re-election to the Senate.
Massachusetts voters on Tuesday will also decide races for the U.S. House, the Legislature, other state and county officers and three statewide ballot initiatives, including a first-in-the-nation vote on a transgender rights law.
A closer look at some of the key races Tuesday:
It’s been an uphill climb for Gonzalez, who has trailed throughout the race in polling and been heavily outspent by the incumbent. In fact, the $2.25 million spent by Baker’s campaign during the second half of October was more than the $2.18 million Gonzalez had raised throughout his entire campaign, according to the most recent state campaign finance records.
In debates, Gonzalez has pointed to Baker’s endorsement — albeit tepid — of Diehl and other pro-Trump candidates sharing the Republican ticket with him in Massachusetts. Baker has said only that he is keeping his promise to endorse fellow GOP candidates.
The Democrat has also attempted to chip away at Baker’s edge by labeling the Republican a “status quo” governor while positioning himself as a reformer. He’s advocated for major investments in public transportation and education, and backed a single-payer health care system.
Baker and state Republicans have, in turn, questioned how Gonzalez would pay for his initiatives, especially after the state’s highest court struck down a proposed 4 percent surtax on the state’s highest earners.
Warren is heavily favored to defeat Diehl, a state representative from Whitman, in what both supporters and detractors of the incumbent view as a potential warmup for a national race against Trump in 2020.
The Democrat has portrayed her opponent as someone who would vote “100 percent of the time” to support Trump’s agenda. Diehl was the co-chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign in Massachusetts and doesn’t hide his support for the president, though has promised if elected to vote first to protect the state’s interests.
Diehl has charged that Warren is already looking past her current re-election campaign and would soon abandon Massachusetts to focus on a run for the White House.
Warren, one of Trump’s fiercest critics in Congress, hasn’t exactly discouraged the speculation. She recently said she would take a “hard look” at running for president once the Senate election is over. And some have viewed her recent disclosure of DNA tests as an attempt to quiet the controversy — and frequent taunts from Trump — over her claims of Native American heritage.
Shiva Ayyadurai, an independent running on the slogan “only a real Indian can defeat the fake Indian,” is also on the ballot.
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley emerged as the biggest story of the September primary in Massachusetts with her upset of longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano. Pressley has no Republican opponent in the general election and there’s been little drama in the other fall campaigns for the House.
The most competitive races appear to be in the 3rd District, where Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas is retiring, and in the 9th District where Democrat William Keating is seeking a fifth term.
Lori Trahan, of Lowell, survived a 10-way Democratic primary and a recount to secure her party’s nomination for Tsongas’ seat, and is facing Republican Rick Green, a businessman from Pepperell.
Keating’s GOP opponent is Peter Tedeschi, of Marshfield, whose family founded the convenience store chain that bears its name.
Massachusetts currently has an all-Democratic congressional delegation.
Question 3 on Tuesday’s ballot asks Massachusetts voters if they want to keep a 2-year-old state law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations and allows them to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their gender identity. It marks the first statewide referendum in the U.S. on a transgender law and is being watched closely by LGBT rights groups around the nation.
A “no” vote Tuesday would repeal the law, which opponents claim gives male sexual predators freedom to enter private spaces for women by claiming female gender identity. Those arguments are dismissed as scare tactics by the law’s supporters who say no such incidents have been reported since the law was passed.
The ballot initiative that has generated the most spending on both sides is Question 1, which if passed would make Massachusetts the second state, after California, to mandate specific nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals.
Supporters say the staffing requirements would make patients safer. Opponents argue it could have the opposite effect by creating an overly rigid system that could potentially force hospitals to turn patients away.
Both sides claim in TV ads and on campaign signs to have the backing of nurses.
Another ballot initiative — Question 2 — ask voters to establish a special state commission as a first step toward a constitutional amendment to undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which held that held corporations and unions could spend unlimited money to influence elections.
Secretary of State William Galvin, Massachusetts’ top elections official, has predicted about 2.4 million residents will have cast ballots by the time the polls close on Election Day, including about 585,000 who availed themselves of the state’s early voting period.
If true, that would exceed turnout in the last two midterm elections, 2014 and 2010.
Galvin said Monday many voters in Massachusetts, as elsewhere, appear more motivated by national politics than by state or local issues.