BOSTON (AP) — It’s the dog days of August and on Beacon Hill thoughts begin to turn not to the beach or Fenway Park, but to the frozen north and the nation’s first presidential primary in neighboring New Hampshire.
Massachusetts politicos have long played a pivotal supporting role in that February crucible — holding signs, acting as candidate surrogates, and providing the legwork needed to reach out to voters who have come to expect one-on-one political courtship.
The first top figure in Massachusetts to jump into the fray this year is Attorney General Maura Healey. The novice officeholder is the highest profile Massachusetts Democrat to declare her support of a candidate in her party’s primary, endorsing Hillary Clinton.
In an email to supporters this week, Healey said Clinton’s economic plan addresses the nation’s core challenge — raising incomes for everyday Americans and closing the equality gap in earnings.
In the same email Healey, still in her first year as attorney general, describes Clinton as an “activist, organizer, lawyer, mother and grandmother. Sunglass-wearing, tough-negotiating, world-traveling Secretary of State. History-making U.S. Senator and First Lady.”
Healey said she will begin stumping for Clinton next Saturday in Exeter, New Hampshire.
“I’m all in and I’m ready to hit the streets,” Healey wrote.
Other top Massachusetts Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, aren’t rushing to endorse any candidate in their party’s primary. Besides Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are also seeking the party’s nomination.
Warren, who remains a powerhouse among the progressive wing of her party, has said she’s still watching the ongoing primary contest to get a better read on the candidates and their positions.
Liberal Democratic activists had attempted unsuccessfully to draft Warren into the 2016 presidential contest, an effort Warren rebuffed. Sanders is appealing to some of those liberal Warren supporters.
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey has also held off on making any endorsement.
Gov. Charlie Baker, the state’s top Republican, has declined to endorse a candidate in the GOP presidential primary. The recently elected Baker is trying to maintain his bipartisan appeal by keeping the national party at arm’s length in a state where Democratic and independent voters vastly outnumber Republicans.
Baker has roundly criticized front-runner Donald Trump’s comments about women, however, calling them “reprehensible, outrageous and ridiculous.” In 2011, Baker donated $10,000 donation to the campaign committee of New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is among the 17 GOP presidential candidates.
The Massachusetts Republican Party was quick to criticize Healey’s endorsement of Clinton, given ongoing questions about Clinton’s use of a private email account, calling it “deeply troubling that the state’s top prosecutor would choose now to endorse Hillary Clinton.”
The role that Massachusetts politicians can play in the New Hampshire primary goes beyond just endorsements.
Former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick was a high-profile backer of President Barack Obama, but he also played an important role as a key campaigner, setting up his own political action committee to pay for his travels.
During Obama’s re-election campaign, Patrick appeared at campaign offices in New Hampshire to rally volunteers and campaign workers and spoke at high profile Democratic events, like the party’s annual Jefferson Jackson dinner.
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