The Gathering Storm

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 7, 2012


As I write this column, a campaign-weary Commonwealth awaits the end of a year-long, roughly $80 million Senate race that seems to have been on the front pages — and in every commercial break — for as long as we can remember.

Don't expect a long respite, however. The next statewide slugfest is already shaping up as you read this.

With Deval Patrick out of the running, most eyes are on the wide-open 2014 governor's race. And interested contenders seem as if they can't wait to get started.

The State House News Service reported last week that Treasurer Steve Grossman says he will "take a hard look at running for governor" as soon as this Tuesday's election was over.

Dan Wolf of Harwich, first-term state senator and founder of Cape Air, will do the same, I am told by someone working closely with him.

And rumors are swirling that Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray will signal his intention to run very soon — perhaps in his November 15 speech at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

If you think it's too soon for the 2014 race to get started, you've had your horizons lowered by recent gubernatorial cycles.

Republicans have done such a good job clearing the field for their preferred nominees — Charlie Baker in 2010 and Kerry Healey in 2006 — that they've had no pressure to start early.

Democratic insiders tried to do the same in 2006, pledging themselves to Tom Reilly. As a result, the only candidate to enter the race early was a virtual unknown named Deval Patrick — who needed all the time he could get to build his campaign.

But go back to the 2002 cycle, and things were very different. It was one big brawl.

By that timetable, Grossman is getting a late start — he was part of that field, and he'd already declared himself a candidate for governor by this point in that election.

Grossman announced in May 2000; Warren Tolman jumped in a few months later. Tom Birmingham and Shannon O'Brien didn't officially launch their campaigns until the beginning of the actual election year, 2002, but they were acting as candidates — and fundraising and organizing as candidates — long before.

Similarly, Grossman, Murray, and others might not officially declare their candidacies in the next few months — but they don't want to leave potential supporters in doubt for long.

After all, there are plenty of other rumored candidates who might be vying for attention. The list includes US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, Congressman Michael Capuano, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Somerville mayor Joe Curtatone, Salem mayor Kim Driscoll, and former New Bedford mayor Scott Lang.


The potential candidates all have some combination of political operation, fundraising ability, name recognition, and visibility — but none has enough to ensure a successful late start. All, to some extent, need as much time as possible to build a grassroots campaign.

"Nobody can wait," says Mary Anne Marsh of Dewey Square Group in Boston. "Every day that goes by could be one less supporter you might have, or one less check you might get."

There will also be pressure on some to make their decisions clear, at least privately, to those who would seek their current position if it's becoming available.

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