Congratulations to Maura Healey, the newly elected governor of Massachusetts, who won convincingly on November 8 with 63% of the votes. On election night, she received a congratulatory call from President Joe Biden, according to Politico.
Healey, a Democrat raised in an Irish-American Catholic household, is making history as the first woman to win election as Massachusetts governor and one of the first openly-gay governors in the United States. She is being sworn in as the 73rd governor of the Commonwealth on Thursday, January 5, 2023.
Joining Healey in the executive office is Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll, Mayor of Salem, who has Irish ancestry on her father’s side and is just the fifth woman elected as lieutenant governor.
Healey is the oldest of five children in a close-knit Irish-American family, and grew up in New Hampshire, with family roots in Newburyport, Massachusetts. On her father’s side, her family roots are in Kilgarvan, County Kerry, and Macroom, County Cork. Her mother’s family came from Ballinasloe, County Galway; her maternal great-grandmother Katherine Tracy emigrated to America in 1850 at age 15.
Of her ancestors, she said, “They came to this country under difficult circumstances, fleeing real poverty in Ireland, and real depression, a difficult hard situation, and they worked so hard. It was their principles and their values I was raised with, and I learned a lot growing up about taking care of family, taking care of those who need an advocate, those who need help,” she told an Irish Emigrant reporter several years ago.
On the campaign trail, Healey said, “You know I’m Irish. I love talking to people, listening to people, and meeting people, and this has been a great way to do that across the state.”
As Attorney General of Massachusetts since 2014, Healey has gained a national profile through her strong positions on gun violence, criminal justice reform, and prescription drug abuse. And as the nation’s first openly-gay AG, she was involved in the state’s challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had refused to recognize same-sex marriage.
Healey created an Advisory Council on New Americans in the Attorney General’s Office and is today a leading advocate of immigrant rights. During her campaign for governor, she supported driver’s licenses for eligible undocumented residents; vowed to end state and law enforcement involvement in federal immigration matters; and promised to fight for a meaningful pathway for undocumented immigrants on the federal level.
A gifted athlete and scholar, Healey graduated cum laude from Harvard College in 1992 and was co-captain of Harvard’s women’s basketball team. After college, she played professional basketball in Europe for several years, before getting into public service.
Healey will be the first woman to join an illustrious list of other Irish-Americans, all men, dating back to Governor James Sullivan in 1807, who was Protestant. The 20th century ushered in the first Irish Catholic, Governor David I. Walsh, elected in 1914, followed by a string of others, including James Michael Curley, Francis Hurley, Maurice Tobin, Paul Dever, and Ed King. In the 21st century, governors Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker have also mentioned their Irish roots.
Healey enjoys a strong working relationship with Governor Baker, the popular Republican governor who declined to run for a third term of office, so the transition in the Governor’s Office is expected to be smooth. ♦