Marie just wrote about the Frank Phillips article in today’s Globe reporting that Attorney General Martha Coakley is considering a run for governor in 2014, but I figured I’d share my thoughts here too. I’m not sure if this is Coakley herself launching this trial balloon or if it’s evidence of dissatisfaction with the Democratic gubernatorial field as it is now perceived to stand. That field includes two declared candidates, Donald Berwick of Newton and Joseph Avellone of Wellesley. A number of other office holders including the mayors of Somerville (Joseph Curtatone) and Salem (Kim Driscoll), State Senator Dan Wolf of the Cape and possibly Congressmen Mike Capuano and Steve Lynch have been mentioned as possible candidates.
Then there is State Treasurer Steve Grossman who is clearly a candidate although he’s being coy about publicly declaring it (campaign literature he’s been distributing during the past months scrupulously avoids any mention of “candidate for governor.” Grossman has been working hard in the Lowell region, already locking up the support of former State Senator Steve Panagiotakos and current State Representative Kevin Murphy (and probably others I’m not personally aware of). Sal Lupoli, owner of Sal’s Pizza, et al, who has himself been rumored to be a candidate for statewide office on the Republican side, is now hosting a fund raiser for Grossman. Through Grossman’s years as the head of the state Democratic party, he has the support of many of those who are involved in the Democratic party apparatus. But I’m not sensing any warm, fuzzy feeling among the grass roots activists I know towards Grossman (and by “grass roots activists” I mean the people who show up to knock on doors every weekend in a campaign). By all measures, Grossman has done a good job as State Treasurer and his past liberal positions should make him a solid choice of the progressive elements of the Democratic Party but that doesn’t seem to be the case. He shouldn’t be criticized to reaching out to all points on the ideological spectrum, but it could be that his Clinton-esque “triangulation” of courting conservative Democrats like Panagiotakos and just plain conservatives like Lupoli give more progressive people pause.
Whatever the case, I sense there is an opportunity for another high profile candidate, be it Coakley or Capuano or Lynch to step in. The state convention in Lowell just two weeks from tomorrow will be a great opportunity for potential candidates to showcase themselves. It was at a Lowell convention in 2005 that I and many others first heard Deval Patrick speak and the speech he gave at that time was so powerful and meaningful that it won me and many others over more than a year before the election in which he became governor. While it’s true that to speak at the Lowell convention this year, one would have to declare one’s gubernatorial candidacy beforehand, current statewide officeholders such as Grossman and Coakley already have speaking roles in their own right as Treasurer or Attorney General and so they don’t necessarily have to declare their intentions on that same timetable in order to address the convention.
Would Martha Coakley be a good candidate for governor? I think she would. She’s done a fine job as Attorney General. During my previous career as a criminal defense attorney, I went up against her, then a Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney, on a number of cases and always found her a tough but very fair opponent. But she would face several significant obstacles. There is lingering regret about her loss to Scott Brown (although that is partly assuaged by the subsequent election of Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to the Senate). Because of the nature of the Attorney General’s job, particularly the part that includes investigating political corruption, people who hold that job have a hard time getting elected governor (see Frank Belotti, Scott Harshbarger and Tom Reilly). And then there’s the animus held by too many of our neighbors, both men and women, towards female candidates (and if you doubt the existence of that, just ask anyone who canvassed for Elizabeth Warren last fall).
It’s hard to believe that I’m still cleaning up the Ed Markey for Senate paperwork I have scattered throughout the house after this Tuesday’s election and we’re already plunging into next year’s statewide election. Another reason to love politics: there’s never a dull moment.