Tim Murray’s political prospects

Shortly after news broke yesterday that Lt Gov Tim Murray’s state vehicle was traveling more than 100 mph just before it crashed early one November morning, I received an email from a trusted observer with good political instincts. Here is what it said:

Tim Murray was going 108 miles per hour and not wearing a seat belt when he crashed his car. He is done for.

And so the thinking goes, especially when layered atop the revelations of Murray’s complicated relationship with Mike McLaughlin, all brought to light in the Globe’s expose on the compensation package of the former Executive Director of the Chelsea Housing Authority.

So is Murray done for politically? Not necessarily. As bad as things seem for him now, the calendar works to his advantage. The next gubernatorial election is not until 2014 which is a long way off. Assuming nothing else happens (a McLaughlin indictment, for instance), events from the fall of 2011 will be “old news” by then.

Consider Paul Cellucci. Back in 1993, Brian Mooney wrote a blockbuster story in the Globe detailing the numerous (outstanding) mortgages the then Lt Governor had on his Hudson home at the time. While the fact that Cellucci had a half-million dollar mortgage debt seems almost quaint by today’s standards, it was a startling amount nearly two decades ago. Here’s some of the story:

Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci is slowly digging out from under a half-million-dollar debt resulting from high living expenses and thinly secured loans from hometown banks. Public records from the past year indicate Cellucci owes between $484,000 and $550,000, primarily to two Hudson banks that made the loans against collateral currently valued by the town of Hudson at less than $308,000. In an interview, Cellucci attributed his heavy indebtedness to “personal living expenses.” . . . Cellucci acknowledged he is a horse-racing enthusiast, but said his troubles are not related to gambling.

I clearly remember reading that story in real time and thinking Cellucci was done politically. But I also remember sitting in the Lowell Memorial Auditorium a few years later for a gubernatorial debate between Cellucci and Scott Harshbarger. When Harshbarger tried to raise the Cellucci debt issue it fell flat, with everyone thinking “that’s old news.”

Now I don’t mean to equate Murray’s current predicament with Cellucci’s home loans. My point is that in politics, the passage of time with no intervening problems tends to take the sting out of things that seem devastating when they occur. That may be the case with Murray. Or it may not.