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Ending gubernatorial bid, Chang-Díaz turns focus to down ballot “Courage Democrat” candidates

Josh Landes

Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz is admitting defeat in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. With polls and fundraising reports showing Attorney General Maura Healey far ahead in the September 6th contest, Chang-Díaz says that while she’ll remain on the ballot, her focus is now on supporting down ballot candidates in other state races. Across the aisle, Trump-endorsed former State Representative Geoff Diehl is the favorite in polls as he faces off in the Republican primary against businessman Chris Doughty. WAMC spoke with Chang-Díaz about Thursday’s decision to give up on the corner office for now and her message for disappointed supporters.

CHANG-DÍAZ: When I got into this campaign for governor, it has always been about the core goals of injecting more courage and more urgency into our state politics in driving an agenda that is going to serve the interests of working families who have been told to wait for too long by Beacon Hill and building power for communities of color. And as I look at the two and a half months that we have ahead of us on the primary election calendar, and, you know, the many, many variables that go into any campaign, what became clear to me and my senior campaign team as we looked at all of these variables, you know, backwards and forwards, is that, you know, we have a choice before us. We could call some Hail Mary passes, right, to close the enormous gap. Or we could take the time and the people power that we have built up over the past 12 months of this campaign, and we could focus those, that power on some down ballot races that would serve those goals, right, of injecting more urgency and more courage into our state politics.

WAMC: So let's take a look at those down ballot races you're trying to draw attention to. Walk us through it, who do you think is best going to carry out some of the goals of your campaign with the knowledge that your odds of securing the nomination on September 6th are as limited as they are?

So, it's a great slate of candidates that we announced yesterday. We're calling them Courage Democrats, because this is a key attribute that they all have in common and that is central to the reasons why I got into this race and, why my supporters have so avidly supported our work over the past year. So the five first Courage Democrats that we're starting with are two DA candidates – [Ricardo] Arroyo, who's running for District Attorney in Suffolk County, Rahsaan Hall, who's running for District Attorney in Plymouth County – and then three state representative candidates: Vivian Birchall, Raul Fernandez, and Sam Montaño, all of who are running, new candidates running for House seats in different areas across the state. And all of them are folks who I know and am very confident that they are going to walk the walk when it comes to living their values as public servants.

Do you have a message to supporters who are disappointed by the fact that it's going to be likely that there's not going to be a candidate of color in the corner office on Beacon Hill for the foreseeable future with you sort of acknowledging that this is not going to be the race that takes you there?

Yeah, it's a great question Josh. And my answer is that, what I would say to those supporters, what I have said to many of them yesterday, is, I share your disappointment, right? I too am frustrated that, by the by the many obstacles that are in place in our politics, and I wish we had a better politics in Massachusetts. But I also tell them that because the pathway to victory for us in this governor's race is, you know, is not viable, it doesn't mean that there isn't a path to victory for our movement. Right? There are other things that we can do with this time and this organizing energy that we've built up in order to move the ball forward on the politics that we're looking for, particularly when it comes to serving communities of color, right? We've got these down ballot candidates who are going to be important players on the field for the next two years, the next four years. And the work that we have done has broken barriers, right, and we've moved the ball forward already, right, just getting the first woman of color ever in Massachusetts history on the ballot for governor. That's an historic step forward that we can all take pride in. And that's why I feel strongly about leaving my name on the ballot, because we've worked hard to break that barrier and achieve that milestone and people deserve to have choices at the ballot box. And we're going to keep up this work, right? No one's, you know, I'm not going away. I'm not going on vacation. I believe in this work. And I believe that there is meaning there are meaningful wins that we can win this election cycle.

Are you concerned that this takes pressure off of Maura Healey? And if there are things you could pressure Maura Healey on as the likely Democratic candidate for governor, what would those issues be?

Well, first of all, I would say I think we've already moved the dial significantly in this race. There are many issues that we brought that this campaign, you know, brought to the fore, and that the Attorney General has now made commitments on because we drove the debate and drove the conversation in this race. Things like commitment to universal early education and care in this state. Things like commitment to east-west rail, commitment to stop using our state and local law enforcement dollars for immigration enforcement in this state. Things like removing the ban, the statewide ban on rent stabilization policies. All of these are things that the Attorney General had not committed to until our campaign pushed. And so that's something else that supporters can look at and say, look, this is the result of our work, and that's why we need to keep at it, right, and keep the press on, whether it's in the governor's race or in down ballot races all across the board.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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