So why do Republicans have such success at winning the governor’s office while facing ritual disaster in contesting other seats (putting aside the Brown victory for the moment). For one thing, as my colleague Professor Duquette has pointed out, the GOP apparatus has largely served as a talent agency for someone who can win the governor’s office (and its patronage) from the Democrats. But it’s more because we only trust a manager to be governor.
Remember the suburban managers dominate the Governor Party and the urban workers control the Legislature Party. Democrats in the legislature and “the culture of Beacon Hill” have been a ready punching bag for Republican manager gubernatorial candidates. Voters turn to managers in part due to concerns about what might happen if a Democrat perceived as suspiciously attentive to Workers (and their legislative champions) might do in combination with the legislative leadership. Romney exploited such concerns in his 2002 race, arguing that the election of Shannon O’Brien would give the Democrats a “gang of three” (along with Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran) who would congregate in a smoky back room and not slither out until the commonwealth’s populace had been properly fleeced.
When a candidate like Deval Patrick comes along who can soothe concerns about managerial regularity while appealing to underlying values of concern for social welfare the Democrats can win the governorship. Patrick was even able to beat super manager Charlie Baker in 2010 because he appeared to combine executive ability, integrity and likeability with the values of the managers. Baker had many of these attributes, but was damaged by questions concerning his role in the big Dig and seemed frozen by the rise of the Tea Party constituency. As for other statewide and legislative offices, the Managers have nowhere to go since the Republicans default on most of those races.
One reason I think Rep. Dan Winslow’s analysis of a possible split between urban and suburban legislators is interesting is for what it could mean for state politics. If suburban legislative power waxes and urban control wanes in the coming years, we might someday see suburban legislators gain control of the legislature. In that case the legislative and governor parties might merge into one Managers Party.