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For AG Healey, 'better to have tried' as a couple big legal cases in western Mass. fall apart

Attorney General Maura Healey and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker picutred in a file photo together taken at the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony on September 21, 2016.
Office of Governor Baker
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/28232089@N04
Attorney General Maura Healey and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker picutred in a file photo together taken at the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony on September 21, 2016.

Two big western Massachusetts cases championed by Attorney General Maura Healey are falling apart.

Last week, a judge dismissed charges against former Holyoke Soldiers' Home leadership, saying there wasn't enough information to link the men to the COVID-19 deaths at that facility.

Healey's office has also seen charges go nowhere against about half of the 14 defendants in the Nathan Bill's case involving Springfield cops.

State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy joins us to discuss whether concern has been heard at the AG’s office as she considers a possible campaign for governor.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: No, I haven't heard concern, particularly as it relates to the potential race for governor — especially the Holyoke case.

We know that was being watched nationally as potentially one of the first cases in the country that was brought against some of the administrators of one of these congregate care facilities, and holding them responsible for outbreaks that we saw in facilities around the country at the beginning of the pandemic.

But I think if you're Attorney General Maura Healey, better to have tried in this case — at least that's what the people around her think. She gave it a go. She has tried to hold these people responsible, and she is still considering whether or not to appeal that decision in particular. She has 30 days from the dismissal to make that decision. So it could be not the end of the road for those.

But like I said, the people close to her and watching her closely, Democrats are interested in a potential Healey candidacy for governor — thinking that at least giving it a try, and trying to look like you're on the front foot, is a good political position for the attorney general.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Governor Charlie Baker continues to dodge questions about whether he's going to seek a third term. He leads Healey and other Dems in a hypothetical matchup, according to a new UMass poll. He’ll likely face a Republican rival, former state Rep. Jeff Diehl. The party's central committee, at times at odds with Gov. Charlie Baker, meets this week. Do you expect any talk of the 2022 governor's race?

That race is not particularly on the agenda for the Mass GOP meeting this week, but there's no doubt that that will be the undercurrent running through all of their discussions.

The party — particularly the party chair — has had quite a falling-out with the governor. They are no longer really close, or cooperating very much, and it creates an interesting dilemma for the governor as he considers a third term.

As you mentioned, the UMass poll is showing that the governor would start any race as the favorite. He does lead in hypothetical matchups heading into 2022, but he's certainly not as popular as he once was.

And people look at this field and think that this governor is potentially vulnerable in 2022, which makes this an interesting decision, particularly as he would face a Republican primary challenge from Jeff Diehl, who is seen as enjoying the support of party chairman Jim Lyons.

We could see some pro-Baker members of the Republican State Committee try and push the party to be less obvious about their opposition to some of the governor's policies.

But you know, this is something to watch moving forward as a storyline, particularly as we get closer to a state convention. And the governor, should he run, has to start thinking about getting through a Republican primary, and building as much of a base of support within the party as he can to get into the general election.

Finally, we saw a big upsurge in the number of COVID-19 cases last week in Massachusetts. Statewide, with direction provided by Baker, hospitals issued limits on elective surgery and visitors. Entering our second COVID winter, can we expect Baker to bring back statewide mitigation efforts that we've had in the past, like limiting travel, or mask mandates?

You know, anything is possible, depending on how this goes. And now there's the new variant. The governor said over the weekend that he's in talks with the federal government about what it might take to increase booster capacity in Massachusetts, making it more available. We could see more efforts around promoting the availability and pushing people to get boosters.

I think first, you're far more likely to see the governor encourage cities and towns, depending on their size and transmission rates, take steps locally. We know that the mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu, for instance, is looking at her options, perhaps to into proof of vaccination requirements for people going to restaurants, people going to larger performance venues. So I think that's where you probably see the first step this winter come — but I'm sure if this continues to trend upward, you're going to hear more lawmakers and policymakers putting pressure on the governor to take another look at things — steps like mask mandates.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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