Campaign Update: 2013-2014

While January is typically a time for taking the oath of office and not kicking off a campaign, 2013 is a very different year. In the next twenty-two months we’ll have three very important elections (with at least two and possibly three primaries). When you add in the Elizabeth Warren v Scott Brown U.S. Senate race from last November, it will be a very intense two year stretch of political activity. Here’s a brief recap of each:

The U.S. Senate hearings on John Kerry as our next Secretary of State begin this Thursday, January 24. As a longtime colleague and relatively non-controversial nominee, Kerry should be confirmed quickly, perhaps even that day. Conceivably he could be Secretary of State by Friday night which would cause him to resign his Senate seat. That would trigger a number of events. First, Governor Patrick will name an interim Senator who will serve until a replacement is elected this spring. The Governor has reportedly informed that person of his intent to name him or her so if you haven’t heard from the Governor recently, cancel your plans to move to Washington.

The second thing the Governor will do is to schedule a special election to fill the Senate vacancy. Massachusetts law requires that election to be held not less than 145 days nor more than 160 days from the seat becoming vacant. The most likely date for the election would be Tuesday, June 18, 2013. The law also requires the primary to be held six weeks before that date, so the primary election for the U.S. Senate would be on May 7, 2013.
Right now, the only person who has declared his candidacy for this seat is Congressman Ed Markey although most people expect his fellow Congressman, Steve Lynch, to also enter the race. Others rumored to be interested, like Congressman Mike Capuano and State Senator Ben Downing, have already said they will not run. I assume Scott Brown will run in the Republican primary although there is speculation he will wait and run for governor in 2014. That speculation in my view is wishful thinking from Democrats who don’t want to face Brown again and from Republican operatives who would rather have a Republican governor than U.S. Senator since the governor would have a lot more jobs to hand out.

The first task of any Senate campaign will be to collect 10,000 nomination signatures. That has always been the requirement for a Senate seat and it will remain a requirement even though it’s a special election. So in the coming weeks, be prepared for people with clipboards to ask you to sign a nomination petition (signing isn’t an endorsement; it just lets the candidate get on the ballot).

One potential casualty of the timing of this election will be the state Democratic Party convention which is scheduled for June 1, 2013 at the Tsongas Center here in Lowell. Normally, this would be an “issues convention” because it is not a year with a state election so such a convention would not garner the attention nor attendance that a nominating convention would. But these in-between conventions have always served as “try-outs” for people who plan to seek office the following year. It was in Lowell at the 2005 issues convention, for instance, that Deval Patrick first introduced himself to Democrats with a rousing speech that launched his gubernatorial candidacy. Because of the scheduling of the special election this year, just a couple of weeks after the convention, there is some talk of rescheduling or even cancelling the convention so as to not divert critical resources away from the Senate campaign.

So that’s the Senate special election rundown. Next up is the city election which will be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Presumably all of the incumbent councilor and school committee members will run. I haven’t heard the names of any challengers emerging although in his column yesterday Kendall Wallace stated that he knows of two “young professionals, one male, the other female” who are leaning towards running. There will undoubtedly be others. It’s ironic that for all the discontent about the behavior of the present city council, the city’s current financial stability makes it less likely that the voters will choose a major change in the makeup of the council. As for the school committee, every challenger who has made it onto the ballot in the last two elections has won a seat on the committee. It will be interesting to see if that causes more people to run for that office and, if so, whether the streak of new-comer victories will continue.

Once the city election is complete, we will move right into the 2014 state election which will be a big one, mostly because the governor’s office will be up for grabs. Lt. Governor Tim Murray’s announcement Friday that he would not run for that office was probably met with relief by many given Murray’s potential involvement in the Mike McLaughlin/Chelsea Housing matter which should be resolved this year or next. With Murray out, that leaves incumbent Treasurer Steve Grossman as a declared Democratic candidate. Presumably other will join him. If any are incumbent Constitutional officers such as State Auditor Suzanne Bump or Secretary of State Bill Galvin, their offices, which are already on the ballot in 2014, will attract much more competition. The Republicans will field a full slate of candidates for these offices. Given the electoral history in the Commonwealth over the past 25 years, the Republicans are more likely to win the governorship than most state rep races, so they will undoubtedly take great care in finding a competitive candidate for governor.

Besides the governorship and the Constitutional offices, the U.S. Senate seat that we will fill this spring will be on the ballot again in 2014 (that’s when Senator Kerry’s current 6-year term will end). Whoever wins that seat this June, whether it be Ed Markey or Scott Brown or someone else, should expect a vigorous challenge from the other party in November 2014.

We in Middlesex County will have another intense race on the ballot; that’s for District Attorney. Since Gerry Leone’s recent announcement that he would not seek re-election, potential candidates will have plenty of time to crank up their candidacies. Some who hold other offices, like Clerk of Courts Michael Sullivan and Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, would not have to relinquish their seats to run. Others, like any incumbent state senator or state representative, would have to forgo reelection to run for DA which would create a domino effect as others scrambled to fill their offices.

So that’s a quick review of expected political activity over the next two years. Consider getting involved in one or more of the races. It will make your life very interesting.