Former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang has sent out signals regarding a possible run for the Corner Office in 2014. He’ll face a crowded field, including the former Mayor of Worcester and current Lt. Governor Tim Murray. It’s been a long time since Massachusetts Democrats nominated a Mayor.
Kevin White was the last in 1970, running (poorly it should be noted) with Michael Dukakis against Frank Sargent and Donald Dwight. Sargent’s victory was the last for the GOP until the Weld ascendancy in 1990 ushered in a new era for Massachusetts Republicans. And Mayors receded in political significance beyond their municipal borders. Only one member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Richard Neal, served time as a Mayor.
Mayors seem somewhat out-of-place in our current electoral environment. Those that are successful and have longevity in office tend to be nearly nonideological: they’re fixers. They are the kinds of politicians who know which roads will have to be dug up for new sewer lines, appreciate the intricacies of utility contracts, and recall which generation of what city family attended a certain neighborhood school. Their politics almost always lean left, but typically it is the left of old school, New Deal Democrats.
A Lang candidacy will challenge my colleague Professor Cunningham’s characterization of the urban-suburban split in Massachusetts politics. Lang is a prototypical manager and unlike Murray, Tom Menino, and others who represent the urban culture, he’s a “blow-in” who was born in Oceanside, New York. Not Harvard educated, to be sure, but Georgetown Law by way of Marquette. He’s a former union worker who once delivered beer for Rheingold Breweries in Milwaukee.
Candidacies by Lang and Murray will represent the greatest challenge to the suburbans who’ve long claimed the Corner Office. We haven’t elected a Mayor as Governor since Maurice Tobin in 1944 so their appeal to the suburbs that ring our cities will be crucial as they test the water in advance of 2014.