As Deval Patrick flails, Tim Cahill is positioning himself to run. And that's a-okay with the Patrick team.
Whereas a few months ago it seemed that no one could pose a serious threat to any re-election campaign mounted by Governor Deval Patrick, a recent string of missteps — including the doomed appointment of State Senator Marian Walsh to a high-paying, long-unfilled position — has suddenly made him very vulnerable. Measuring the political winds, State Treasurer Tim Cahill has of late thrust himself into the spotlight to mount a realistic challenge to Patrick, either in the Democratic primary or, more likely, as an independent in the general election. In fact, at this juncture, most insiders see a Patrick-Cahill showdown as all but inevitable.
Whatever comes of the State Ethics Commission's investigation into Cahill's friend Thomas Kelly, this is exactly the wrong political atmosphere in which to have ethics and pay-to-play charges swirling around. The allegations involving Kelly are troubling, and could get worse. If it does — and Cahill suddenly finds the "pay-to-play" microscope is on him — other behavior could then look bad in that context. Cahill's abundant fundraising has always included large sums from those with business before him: money managers who make percentages of what Cahill invests through them, for example, and liquor distributors who deal with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
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But it hasn't seemed to cause much of a stir with those inside the Patrick camp. In fact, it may be that this is exactly the match-up they would like to see.
Cahill has always been talked about as a likely gubernatorial candidate — someday. He is a prolific fundraiser, with roughly $3 million in his campaign account — far more than Patrick himself, let alone other potential challengers. He has a statewide organization. And, he has been a vocal critic of Patrick's proposals, particularly accusing the governor of spending too much, taking too much from state reserves, and proposing taxes, tolls, and fees to raise revenue.
But few insiders thought that Cahill would run against Patrick — until just recently. That's evident in recent conversations the Phoenix has had with Beacon Hill politicos. It's also manifest in a Suffolk University poll conducted for WHDH-TV, which included only one head-to-head match-up for governor: Patrick versus Cahill.
The results, which showed Cahill with a slight lead (35 to 30 percent), have further fanned the flames around Cahill's potential candidacy.
The emergence of Cahill as a presumed challenger to Patrick is also likely to change the political dynamics of the entire would-be field. Potential Republican candidates — such as Harvard Pilgrim president and CEO Charlie Baker, who served in Governor Bill Weld's administration — who may have been considering a challenge to Patrick, may now conclude that they would be stuck in a three-way race (presuming Cahill runs as an independent), splitting the anti-incumbent votes with Cahill.
Whether or not Cahill really intends to run as an independent — and one person close to Cahill's inner circle says that his preference is still to run as a Democrat — the very rumor may keep Republicans like Baker on the sidelines.
And the Patrick folks may be happy to let Cahill do that.
: Talking Politics
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