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Commentary: Uh, Doesn't Maura Healey Have An Opponent?

Attorney general candidate Maura Healey is a new star in Massachusetts politics. Her victory over Warren Tolman in the Democratic primary two weeks ago was surprising and spectacular.

But, news flash: She has a Republican opponent, John Miller.

James Miller (via campaign Facebook page)
James Miller (via campaign Facebook page)

Miller is little-known, under-funded and unlikely to win in this Democratic state. But he is well qualified, and he’s offering voters something increasingly rare in Massachusetts: a choice.

There will be no choice for many public offices on the November ballot. Once again, the state GOP has failed to recruit credible candidates for most offices; putting their eggs in one basket, the gubernatorial campaign. Miller may be a casualty of that strategy. As an unknown, he needs more fundraising help from the state party to become viable.

Whether or not he can turn a candidacy into a campaign, voters should at least consider what he has to say. It may not be Miller time, but his motivation seems honorable: “I’m driven to keep politics out of the AG’s office.”

His credentials are impressive. Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh wrote:

“If elected, Miller, a long-time construction attorney, would be the best-educated attorney general in memory. He holds a bachelor’s in civil engineering and a master’s in soil mechanics from MIT. Add to that a law degree and a master’s in taxation from Boston University… (and) he went back to MIT at 40 to get a doctorate in infrastructure systems.”

I’m not sure a master’s in “soil mechanics” will convince voters that Miller is down to earth and willing to get his hands dirty to fight crime and corruption, but he does seem knowledgeable.

In Healey’s victory speech, she didn’t mention her opponent. The closest she came was saying that now it was time to win “the big one.” But clearly she was not too worried about that prospect because she said she’d be campaigning for Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee for governor. Apparently she feels she can afford to campaign for her old mentor, despite Coakley being far less popular, without that tarnishing her image as a non-political prosecutor.

The political contrast between the attorney general candidates is stark. Healey has excitement and momentum, and she is assumed to be a sure winner by political observers. Miller is, well, the opposite of all that.

The two pictures of the candidates in this article show the vivid contrast: Healey, as victor and new celebrity, lit up the crowd on primary night. Miller is low-key as he spoke with voters at the Country Trading Post restaurant in Chicopee. That’s after pitching his plan there to “convene a working summit on crime in March, 2015,” to develop the right approach for allocating resources “to better focus our $5 billion annual effort.”

On his Facebook campaign page, Miller shares how he’s doing with this kind of update: “Stuck in traffic campaigning across the state but at least the Stones are on.” He can’t get no satisfaction from polls, but he’s got a positive attitude.

As Healey can testify after her surprising victory, having the right attitude is important when you’re an underdog.

Todd Domke is a Republican political analyst for WBUR.

Todd Domke Twitter Republican Political Analyst
Todd Domke is a Republican political analyst for WBUR.

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