Attorney General Maura Healey committed herself on Wednesday to an ambitious new clean energy goal and promised to fight gun violence, reduce barriers to mental health treatment, and support increased funding for education as many Democrats continue to look to her as the future of the party.
Healey, who easily won re-election in November, is widely viewed within the Democratic Party as a likely and formidable candidate for governor in four years, if she doesn’t run for federal office sooner.
And her agenda seems to match those expectations.
“We live in a time of consequence,” Healey said in a speech to hundreds of supporters and public officials, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, at Emerson Colonial Theatre. “A new generation is looking to us to lead. And in these next four years, that’s what we’ll do.”
Healey took the oath of office for her second, four-year term on Wednesday, administered by federal District Court Judge Rya Zobel. The attorney general was introduced by Mark Barden, who said Healey became a friend after he lost his 7-year-old son Daniel in the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.
Healey spoke about four priority areas her office will focus on in a second term, starting with the opioid crisis. She also pledged to support efforts in the Legislature to increase funding for public education, to work with groups like Sandy Hook Promise to help reduce gun violence, and to push Massachusetts to a 100 percent clean energy future by 2050.
Healey said Massachusetts should be proud that it is one of a just a small number of states where overdose deaths did not increase last year, and called fighting the epidemic her “top priority.” In addition to continuing programs like her municipal Narcan purchasing program and using a $3 million federal grant to fight fentanyl trafficking, Healey cast protection of the Affordable Care Act as integral to the state’s fight against opioid addiction.
“This is no time to throw our insurance markets into chaos, make it harder to access treatment, or
take away care from millions of Americans. So we will protect the Affordable Care Act,” she said.
She also vowed to hold opioid manufacturers like Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, accountable. Healey last year made Massachusetts the first state to sue not just the corporation, but the executives and owners of Purdue.
“We will do whatever it takes to hold this company accountable and to get the justice our families so deeply deserve,” Healey said.
On guns, Healey said she planned to work with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization started by Barden after the shooting, to train 140,000 young people in Massachusetts on “how to stay safe and ask for help before it’s too late.”
Barden’s group brings violence prevention education programming into schools at no-cost.
And on climate change, Healey said Massachusetts needs a new goal to meet 100 percent of its energy needs with renewable power by 2050, and 50 percent by 2030.
“We won’t let the federal government and the fossil fuel industry undermine our progress and wreck our planet,” she said.
Healey is hardly alone in calling for a more aggressive transition to clean energy and carbon emission on Beacon Hill, and the attorney general said she supports Gov. Baker’s push to develop a regional “cap-and-invest” program to reduce vehicle emissions. Some lawmakers are also calling for the state’s carbon emission requirements to be updated.
Baker was in the front row for the speech, sitting next to Healey’s mother who the attorney general said suffered a heart attack two days ago and was discharged from the hospital just Wednesday, but “looked great.”
After bursting onto the state’s political scene in 2014 with her first run for public office, Healey has built a reputation as a fighter against the intrusions of Washington and President Donald Trump.
She has sued the Trump administration dozens of times over everything from the enforcement of immigration law to the relaxation of environmental regulations, but on Wednesday did not mention President Donald Trump by name once in her speech.
She did, however, mention former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We protected our air, water, and our planet from dangerous toxins, deep-pocketed polluters, and Scott Pruitt,” Healey said to applause.
In her first term, Healey also angered gun rights advocates with her stepped up enforcement of the state’s ban on assault weapons and “copycat” assault rifles. “We beat the NRA when they sued us – because in Massachusetts, we know that strong gun laws save lives,” Healey remarked.
Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford, after the speech, said he appreciated “how genuine” Healey’s message was. “I think it was heartfelt and I look forward to the next four years with Maura Healey as our attorney general,” Bickford said.
The party chairman, however, did not want to get ahead of himself, or her, by looking toward the next election cycle and where she might fit in. “I think she has an incredible future. This party is very lucky to have her and many others, but she has an incredible future,” he said.
The 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Steve Kerrigan also predicted that “if she wants to be a candidate for something else in the future she’ll be very successful,” and called the speech “phenomenal.”
“She painted a really great picture of accomplishments of not just herself but her staff and the entire commonwealth working together to solve our collective problems and set a path for our collective future,” Kerrigan said.
Not everyone, however, was excited by her message.
Paul Craney, a spokesoman and board member of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, did not attend the speech, but heard about her call for 100 percent renewable energy and said it would become a “massive tax increase that will hurt all, especially the poor.”
“We need to come together and address the environmental challenges facing us, but these massive taxes on our utilities will hurt all and benefit few,” Craney said.