Massachusetts Attorney General and Democratic candidate for Gov. Maura Healey smiles as she speaks during a campaign rally in support of the statewide Massachusetts Democratic ticket, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Boston. Healey faces Republican Jeff Diehl in the general election. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

By STEVE LeBLANC Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts voters are weighing starkly different candidates for governor as they cast their ballots.

The election pits Democrat Maura Healey, who would be the state’s first woman and first openly gay candidate elected governor, against Republican Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who was endorsed by Donald Trump.

If elected, Healey would return the governor’s office to Democratic hands for the first time in eight years. The office is currently held by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who opted against seeking a third term.

Diehl, if he wins, would extend the state’s recent history of electing GOP governors. Since 1991, Republicans have held the corner office for all but eight years while Democrat Deval Patrick served as governor.

Healey and her lieutenant governor candidate, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, are among three all-female governor/lieutenant governor tickets in the U.S. that began Election Day with a chance to become the first such pairing elected to lead a state.

Arkansas Republicans nominated Sarah Huckabee Sanders for governor and Leslie Rutledge for lieutenant governor. And in Ohio, Democrat Nan Whaley is running for governor with Cheryl Stephens as her running mate.

Healey could also become the first openly lesbian candidate elected to be a governor in the country. Democrat Tina Kotek, an openly lesbian candidate for governor in Oregon, is also on the ballot this year.

During the campaign, Healey pledged to expand job training programs, make child care more affordable and modernize schools. Healey has also said she would protect “access to safe and legal abortion in Massachusetts” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The 51-year-old has ticked off what she considers her accomplishments as attorney general, including suing Exxon Mobil over whether the oil giant misled investors and the public about its knowledge of climate change and targeting OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family over allegations they deceived patients and doctors about the risks of opioids.

She also led or joined dozens of lawsuits and legal briefs targeting a raft of Trump policies.

Diehl and his running mate Leah Allen Cole, also a former state representative, have promised to impose fiscal discipline, improve education by empowering parents, and get tough on crime. Diehl also championed a ballot question aimed at repealing a new state law allowing immigrants in the country illegally to obtain Massachusetts drivers licenses.

Diehl, 53, served as co-chair of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Massachusetts, a state that roundly rejected Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Baker, who refused to vote for Trump in both elections, hasn’t endorsed or campaigned for Diehl.

Healey warned Diehl would “bring Trumpism to Massachusetts.”

The two have split on whether the state should repeal the new law giving those in the country illegally the ability to obtain Massachusetts drivers licenses. Healey said the law enhances public safety while Diehl has said it opens the door to drivers using the licenses to illegally register to vote.

The two have also clashed on abortion. Healey said she would protect access to abortion, while Diehl, who hailed the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, said his job would be “to protect people’s health care choices.”

If she wins, Healey — elected eight years ago as the nation’s first openly gay attorney general — would also snap the “curse of the attorney general.” Since 1958, six former Massachusetts attorneys general have sought the governor’s office. All failed.

Diehl was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

In the race for secretary of the commonwealth, Democratic Secretary William Galvin is squaring off against Republican Rayla Campbell, who would be the first Black person to serve in the post.

And in the contest for state auditor, Democratic state Sen. Diana DiZoglio is facing Republican Anthony Amore.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press (AP) is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.