Known as the Bay State, Massachusetts is the 13th most populous
state in the country. Two-thirds of its 6.5 million residents
live on the eastern side of the state, concentrated around Boston
and other urban areas and reflecting the state's once-booming
industry that has been replaced in the second half of the 20th
century by strong tourism and digital and biological technologies.
Massachusetts is seen as one of the great liberal strong-holds
in the country and the only state where same-sex couples can legally
marry. Democrats hold 85 percent of the seats in its state legislature,
the General Court, and all 10 U.S. House seats and two Senate
The political reality in the basically blue state of Massachusetts
is far from monochromatic, however. Republicans and Democrats,
together, can claim only 50.2 percent of registered voters. The
remaining 49.8 percent are registered as unaffiliated or claim
allegiance to smaller parties, such as the Green-Rainbow.
Despite electing Democrats to the General Court and Congress,
independent voters have elected Republicans as governors since
Historically, this office has been held by more Republicans than
Democrats; since 1914, Republicans have placed 14 candidates in
the governor's seat compared to 11 Democrats. The two longest
stretches of single-party rule were from 1916 to 1931 and from
1991 to 2006, and in both periods Republicans held the office.
This year, the governors race, left open by departing Republican
Mitt Romney, will test the state's preference once again.
The most recent Democrat to be elected governor was Michael Dukakis,
the Democratic presidential candidate in 1988, who began his first
of three terms as governor in 1975. Dukakis lead the state into
posterity from 1975 to1979 and again from 1983 to 1987. During
his third term, from 1988 to 1991, the state's economy began to
collapse. A national reduction in defense spending, in addition
to Microsoft beating out Cambridge's Lotus software in public
usage, resulted in high unemployment and failing banks. The voters
responded by electing Republican William Weld to the governor's
office in 1991.
Romney rose to power after successfully organizing the 2002 Olympics
in Salt Lake City. When elected in Massachusetts, Romney was seen
politically to be center-right, but nearing the end of his first
term, he drifted toward conservatism. One of Romney's biggest
achievements as governor was negotiating a statewide health plan
that would cover virtually all residents without raising taxes.
Yet Romney is seen as an absentee governor by many Massachusetts
residents as he tries to increase his visibility within the national
Republican Party in hope of a presidential election bid in 2008.
In line with his presidential jockeying, Romney has chosen not
to run for re-election.
With a recently balanced budget, Romney has called on the General
Court to roll back the state's flat income tax from 5.3 percent
to 5 percent. Going into the 2006 mid-term election, this will
likely be a key issue for the gubernatorial candidates.
Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey will run as the Republican candidate against
Democrat Deval Patrick, a lawyer who won a tough primary on Sept.
19 against Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly and venture
capitalist Chris Gabrieli.
Another key issue in the race reflects the state's brisk tourism
industry. Plans have been made to build a series of windmills
off the coast of Cape Cod to generate power. While these plans
are supported by many Massachusetts residents, many on Cape Cod
believe that the windmills will clutter their view of the ocean
and negatively impact tourism. The gubernatorial candidates are
split about the plan's impact on Massachusetts.
Recently, a statewide constitutional convention put a ballot
measure to ban same-sex marriage on this November's ticket. While
Massachusetts is currently the only state where couples of the
same sex can marry, the state's large Catholic population makes
same-sex marriage a murky issue. All of the Democratic gubernatorial
candidates support civil unions that give same-sex couples the
same rights as married couples. Only Republican candidate Kerry
Healey is outright opposed to same-sex marriage.
The state's seven-term Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy also is
up for re-election but does not face a competitive race.