Four key races to watch in the midterm elections

From left to right, Gov. Charles Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito (R) have been Massachusetts' governor and lieutenant governor since 2015. Photo courtesy of Charlie Baker's campaign.
Gov. Charlie Baker (left) and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito (right) have been Massachusetts' governor and lieutenant governor since 2015. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Baker re-election campaign).

By Matthew Niksa and Defne Karabucak
BU News Service

BOSTON – A battle to unseat Massachusetts’ incumbent governor and U.S. senator are two of the several key races that voters will decide in today’s midterm elections. State residents will vote on local and statewide races amid the inescapable presence of President Donald Trump, whose name has been used by Democratic candidates as ammunition against Gov. Charlie Baker and Geoff Diehl, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Here are four key races in Massachusetts to pay attention to at this year’s midterms.

  1. Governor and Lieutenant Governor: Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito (R) versus Jay Gonzalez and Quentin Palfrey (D).

Gonzalez, who was the state secretary of administration and finance under former Gov. Deval Patrick, is now trying to become the second Democratic governor of Massachusetts in roughly three decades. Throughout his campaign, Gonzalez has said that Baker has not been forceful enough in combatting President Trump’s rhetoric and policy. In turn, Baker, who has served as state governor since 2015, has distanced himself from Trump, saying that he did not vote for him in 2016 and does not plan to vote for him if he runs for re-election in 2020.

Although the candidates support Massachusetts’ strict gun control laws, abortion rights and the state’s transgender accommodations law, both of them disagree on topics such as how to shift Massachusetts away from fossil fuels and how to generate new revenue.

Recent polling data seems to suggest that Massachusetts residents like having Baker in office. MassINC Polling Group data, collected from Oct. 25 to Oct. 28, found Baker ahead with 68 percent to Gonzalez’ 25 percent.

Who are the candidates?

Charlie Baker is seeking his second term as Governor of Massachusetts. The Needham native graduated from Harvard University and obtained his MBA from Northwestern University. Baker was a cabinet official under two governors of Massachusetts and spent 10 years as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Baker has reformed parts of government and privatized sectors of transportation. He has one of the highest approval ratings for a governor in the U.S.

Jay Gonzalez, an Ohio native who grew up in Needham, went to Dartmouth College and joined the administration of former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Gonzalez became the secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, helping guide the state through three post-recession years, figuring out how to spend $30 billion a year in taxpayer money. Gonzalez believes the Commonwealth’s most pressing issue is “the broken transportation system.”

  1. U.S. Senate: Elizabeth Warren (D) versus Geoff Diehl (R) and Shiva Ayyadurai (Independent)

Despite Ayyadurai’s presence on the ballot, the main race is between Diehl and Warren. Warren, Massachusetts’ state senator since 2013, is running for re-election against Diehl, a 2016 Trump campaign co-chair. At his first debate against Warren, Diehl said that he would vote to repeal the state’s 2016 law prohibiting discrimination of transgender people in public places, while Warren said she would vote to keep the law in place.

Both candidates also disagree on immigration and how to fund a potential high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston.

Polling data seems to suggest that voters want Warren to remain in office. MassINC Polling Group data, collected from Oct. 25 to Oct. 28, found Warren ahead with 54 percent to Diehl’s 32 percent.

Who are the candidates?

Elizabeth Warren, 69, of Cambridge, is seeking her second term as a U.S. senator Massachusetts. Warren, the first woman elected to the Senate for Massachusetts, is a leading progressive figure in the Democratic Party. She currently sits on the Committee on Armed Services, Special Committee on Aging, Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

In 2010, Warren led the charge to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and she is considered to be an authority on bankruptcy issues. Warren was a law professor for more than 30 years, teaching at  The University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Texas Law School and Harvard Law School.

Geoff Diehl, 49, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has been a state representative for Whitman, Abington and parts of East Bridgewater since 2011. Diehl came to Massachusetts with his wife, who is the CEO and founder of Boss Academy of Performing Arts, serving as his wife’s hometown’s finance committee. He also served as co-chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Massachusetts. Prior to running for office, Diehl worked as an account executive at a sign company.

Shiva Ayyadurai, 54, of Belmont, began as a Republican primary candidate before switching to Independent. Ayyadurai holds four degrees from MIT and runs several startup companies in Cambridge. He immigrated to the United States with his parents from Mumbai in 1970, at the age of 14.

  1. Massachusetts Attorney General: Maura Healey (D) versus James McMahon (R).

Incumbent Healey, who has served as the state’s attorney general since 2015, is running for her second four-year term against conservative lawyer McMahon. Like Diehl and Warren, Healey and McMahon differ on their support of the state’s 2016 transgender rights law: Healey supports the law while McMahon said it does not include enough protections against those who might use it to access public places for illicit purposes.

  1. Massachusetts Secretary of State: William Galvin (D) versus Anthony Amore (R) and Juan Sanchez (Green-Rainbow Party).

Incumbent Galvin, who has served as the state’s secretary of state since 1998, is running against Republican candidate Amore, who has worked as a security chief at Logan Airport and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Amore said that he wants to modernize the state’s 12-year-old paper ballot system, while Galvin has said that the ballot system is secure. Galvin has tried to link Amore to the policies of the Trump White House, such as asking for immigration status on the 2020 census.

Sanchez, the first Puerto Rican to make it to the statewide ballot in Massachusetts history, told the Boston Globe that if elected, his main goal would be to run a multilingual statewide voter education campaign to ensure everyone can participate in the voting process.

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