Launching Gubernatorial Bid, Harvard Prof. Danielle Allen Pledges To ‘Reimagine’ the Commonwealth


UPDATED: June 16, 2021 at 11:07 a.m.

BOSTON — With the Massachusetts State House behind her, Harvard Government professor Danielle S. Allen officially launched her 2022 campaign for Massachusetts governor as a Democratic candidate at an event on Boston Common Tuesday morning.

Allen’s foray into the gubernatorial race follows her December announcement that she was exploring a candidacy and a monthslong “listening tour,” during which she spoke with constituents across the state. Though she has not held elected office before, Allen previously told The Crimson she would apply her academic experience to her political debut.

Allen is the second Democratic candidate to announce a bid for governor, after former Massachusetts State Sen. Ben B. Downing. Incumbent Republican Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79, who enjoys strong approval ratings among Democrats, has yet to announce whether he will seek a third term.


At a podium on Boston Common Tuesday morning, flanked by supporters in purple campaign shirts, Allen said the state government’s inadequate response to Covid-19 last year exacerbated long-standing inequities for Massachusetts citizens and spurred her decision to run for office.

“The powerful plainly abandoned the powerless, and the pain is still visceral, raw, and deep. But the truth is, this abandonment has been building for a long time. I felt it myself,” Allen said at the event, noting her own cousins’ struggles with addiction, homelessness, and incarceration.

“We have to raise our expectations both of our institutions and of one another. The people have to claim their power,” she added.

Allen said she is competing for governor to “reimagine this commonwealth” — a reference to her campaign slogan, “Reimagine” — and called for greater state investment in housing, transportation, education, jobs, justice, and efforts to combat climate change.

“It’s the responsibility of our state government, above all, to secure this infrastructure for us as the foundation for our flourishing,” she said.

Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui opened Tuesday’s event by speaking about her first meeting with Allen in early 2020 regarding pandemic-response policy recommendations from Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, which Allen directs.

“I relied heavily on the thought leadership Danielle provided. In fact, I remember before one of our major votes around a reopening plan, one of the first calls I made was to Danielle,” Siddiqui said. “I was able to trust her immediately.”

Allen — whose academic work has largely focused on political theory — cited her family as the source of her “original love of democracy.”

“My great-grandmother was president of the League of Women Voters in Michigan in the ’30s. My grandfather helped found one of the first NAACP chapters in his northern Florida community,” she said. “My dad in 1992 ran for Senate in California — yes, as a Reagan conservative — and in the same year, my aunt was on the ballot for Congress with a Peace and Freedom Party in the Bay Area.”

After joining Harvard’s faculty in 2015, Allen quickly rose through its ranks. Just a year and a half later, she was named a University Professor — the highest honor available to faculty.

She will officially take leave from Harvard starting July 1 to campaign full-time.

Allen is the first Black woman to run for Massachusetts governor as part of a major party. If elected, she would be the first Black woman governor in the United States.

In acknowledgment of her candidacy’s historic nature, Allen chose to launch her campaign beside the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment — one of the first African American regiments during the Civil War.

“This was the first state to abolish enslavement, yet it has taken us this long to get to this day. It’s time to accelerate the pace of change,” Allen said. “It’s time for Massachusetts to be that beacon again.”

CORRECTION: June 16, 2021

A previous version of this article misstated the date of Danielle Allen's arrival at Harvard. She arrived in 2015.

—Staff writer Alex Koller can be reached at