Massachusetts political scuttlebutt skews male

The scuttlebutt about 2014 is fairly typically heavy with males. 

Massachusetts does not have a great record of electing women to high office but 2010 might have been a turning point.  Then a record four women (Martha Coakley, Karyn Polito, Mary Z. Connaughton, and Suzanne Bump) were nominated for statewide office and since then we’ve sent the first women to the United States Senate.

The 2010 Auditor’s race was the first to feature two women as major party nominees and 2010 was the first in which the GOP nominated two women for statewide office.

But given Massachusetts’ own history featuring an extraordinary lack of women, there’s much more to do.  It begins, in part, with the world of the scuttlebutt, the buzz, what you’re hearing about who might be in and who might be out.   So I’ll add some of my own thinking only about the 2014 statewide elections.

If Martha Coakley enters the gubernatorial race, she’ll instantly become a front-runner.   Juliette Kayem is also exploring a race though a Coakley candidacy will take up a lot of the political oxygen.

But given that the Attorney General is one of those rare public officials who seems perfectly at home in the office she holds—and quite popular there at the same time—my guess is that she opts to stay put.

If so, it seems likely that both Bill Galvin and Suzanne Bump will also stay put.

That keeps the gubernatorial race wide open and Kayem could, should she throw her hat in the ring, emerge as the Deval Patrick of the year—the thoughtful outsider who can bring together a winning progressive coalition.  If she finds her own John Walsh—the organization and grass-roots guru—she’ll be a force for the nomination.

That leaves wide open races for Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer.

A top-tier of newcomers to state races could very well include those who have already begun to make a name statewide: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.  All should be prominently mentioned when prognosticators think aloud.

Two others who could have statewide appeal but are busy at the moment taking a step elsewhere are State Senators Katherine Clark and Karen Spilka.  But should they fall just short in the crowded race for Ed Markey’s former congressional seat, they’d still have some time in late 2013 to get some fundraising and organizing into place for 2014.

Another obvious choice for statewide office is Senate President Therese Murray.  Term limited in the presidency, Murray is not likely to want to return to the back benches.  A trailblazer in her own right, she’d bring a very loyal team to a statewide race.

Given its size, most of the energy and diversity of choices is on the Democratic side but Republicans have talent down ballot that could easily rise up to a statewide race.

At the moment the GOP is looking at the Big Three—Charlie Baker, Scott Brown, and Gabriel Gomez–and with the GOP hungry for a win given their lockout of state offices since the 2006 elections and the return to an all Democratic congressional delegation, they will desperately want to avoid divisive primaries.  But doing so can also prevent serious candidacies from women who could provide the shot in the arm for the state’s extreme minority party.

Most notably in my mind are former Auditor candidate Mary Z. Connaughton.  She came the closest in 2010 to making a beachhead into the all-Democratic lineup at the state level.  Current state representative Shaunna O’Connell could give any one of the big three a run if she’s serious about forging ahead.  Former Treasurer candidate Karyn Polito should also be on a short list.

Any one of them should be serious contenders for Lieutenant Governor.  It’s worth noting that future Massachusetts bigwigs Frank Bellotti, Elliot Richardson, Frank Sargent, Tom O’Neill, John Kerry, Paul Cellucci, and Jane Swift all served as Lieutenant Governor. Calvin Coolidge served as LG and President, so there’s that to consider.

Wrapping up our list of 2014 candidates, we should seriously include two party leaders, current GOP chair Kristen Hughes and former chair Jennifer Nassour.

Hughes also serves as a Quincy city councilor and a recent fundraiser attracted Baker and Brown and national committeewoman Chanel Prunier.  She got her start in politics at a very young age by volunteering for Weld’s 1990 gubernatorial campaign.  It’s hard to run a party and run for statewide office and given that she was only recently elected chair, she may well opt to pass on 2014 and look ahead to 2018.

Finally, Nassour remains a happy warrior for the GOP and on her watch the party both won a US Senate seat and doubled its anemic showing in the state House of Representatives.

Given the Republican Party’s history of gubernatorial candidates choosing a running mate before the convention, Baker would do well to consider Hughes and Nassour.

Looking beyond 2014 it’s easy for me to see future statewide candidacies from state representative Sarah Peake, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, and Mayor Carolyn Kirk.

If she can win reelection in 2014, newly elected state representative Leah Cole will also figure prominently in future plans for her party.

Scuttlebutt is not scientific and there are many others I’m probably missing and I hope readers might add to the list.

About Peter Ubertaccio

Peter Ubertaccio is the Director of Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies. His work focuses on political parties, marketing and institutions. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Professor Ubertaccio and his family live on Cape Cod where he is on the Board of Directors of the OpenCape Corporation and the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation.
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