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Candidates have just 8 days left to convince Massachusetts voters

Massachusetts Democrat gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey (left) and Republican gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl (right).
State House News Service
Massachusetts Democrat gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey (left) and Republican gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl (right).

It's Halloween. A spooky time for all, especially candidates and campaign staff with just eight days left to convince voters. The latest round of polling coming from UMass/WCVB, points to a Democratic sweep in Massachusetts for statewide offices next week. Matt Murphy of the State House News Service says some of those races could still surprise us on Nov. 8.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: I suppose anything could happen. You never know, especially with turnout being uncertain. If the right mix of independent voters and Republicans and voters frustrated with the state of the economy (which is consistently polled as the top issue in Massachusetts) come out to vote and want to and believe in Jeff Diehl or any of the Republican tickets' messages of bringing balance to Beacon Hill, if that were to come to pass, I guess we could see something happen.

But I think what we've seen in the polling, in that poll you mentioned, as well as recent ones from Suffolk and others, is consistency here. Democrats are holding large double digit leads across the board in all of the statewide races. And I think it would be a really big surprise and a shock to see any of these topflight Democrats lose come Nov. 8.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: That poll also had good news for supporters of all ballot questions, with one exception, that being the liquor license question. Incredibly tight and within the margin of error. Lots of undecided voters. What do you make of that?

Yeah, fascinating here, especially since this ballot question, which is being pitched as a compromise by the small independent package store owners, the (Massachusetts) Package Store Association didn't face much organized opposition. The big box chains, the retailers like Cumberland Farms opting against this. We did see some last-minute spending come in. A good deal of spending over $2 million from the retailer, Total Wine & More, to fight this. But we thought this was going to be a question that, you know, is pretty one sided, given that all sides felt that they weren't going to wage a big war over it. But (are) voters uncertain what to make of it.

What I think is also surprising is the margin on ballot question two, which is a very confusing question relative to dental insurance. People are really buying the idea that money should be spent on care and not go to the insurers. But that's a complicated one, even though it's coming down pretty decisively in the Yes category.

While voters make up their minds on who will lead the state as governor, another leadership changeover is on our horizon, and that's among appointed staff like the governor's cabinet. Can you remind us of what some of those positions are? And do you get the sense that current agency leaders are trying to get a lot of work done before they're out of a job?

Well, you know, any time there's a changeover in administration, there's a big turnover in the staff, the senior executive staff in the governor's office, all of the cabinet secretaries. And it will trickle down through the smaller agencies over time. This won't happen overnight. It will be a process, but it will start with those cabinet positions, big ones like the secretary of Health and Human Services. Secretary Marylou Sudders has been there for all eight years of Governor Baker's administration, controlling the largest portion of the state budget in Massachusetts, controlling MassHealth and other major health care programs, which would be a big position that the next governor will have to fill. These are jobs related to economic development, housing, energy...who will help shepherd the state towards its goal of going carbon neutral by 2050.

These are all positions that the next governor will have to fill. And after Nov. 8, you'll start to see whoever wins, probably start to name some of these people fairly quickly. History has shown that a lot of these appointments can be made even before Thanksgiving, starting with top senior staff and then maybe some of the cabinet people. So, it'll be an interesting watch and shift in the direction of state government come Nov. 9 when the dust settles.

And it's not just those executive branch leaders who are trying to get a little bit of final work done. Lawmakers are also making rumblings about bringing an economic development bill back from the dead. Briefly, what's the latest there?

You know, the Baker administration trying to close out the work that they've been doing and the legislature trying to close out what they need to do. They need to pass a budget bill to close the books on the fiscal year that ended July 1. And with those talks, they are trying to revive that economic development bill that stalled in the summer. Checks are going out this week under that 1986 tax cap law that's going to send $3 billion in tax rebates back to taxpayers beginning Tuesday through mid-December.

And lawmakers are looking at how much surplus money, ARPA money and other excess tax revenue they will have to spend on economic development priorities. This will probably be a smaller bill than the one we saw in the past over the summer, but there could be a lot of spending in here and word is they're also looking at ways to perhaps provide relief with some of the energy price shocks that homeowners are going to see this winter.

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.