Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll joins surge of lieutenant governor hopefuls
Five Democrats now seeking a post with little official power
RARE HAVE SO many been so eager to win an office with so few powers accorded to it.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll announced her run for lieutenant governor yesterday, making her the fifth Democrat in a race that is often more of an afterthought than a high-visibility statewide contest.
Driscoll has long been eyed as a potential statewide candidate. She considered challenging then-US Sen. Scott Brown in 2012 and was encouraged to run for governor in 2014.
With yesterday’s announcement, the long-time municipal leader finally pulled the trigger on a statewide run, but she is setting her sights considerably lower than the US Senate or the governor’s corner office.
The surge of interest in the LG’s post has become the punch-line provoking oddity of the still-forming 2022 election field.
“I can’t remember the last time this many people were so interested in chairing the Governor’s Council,” tweeted Dorchester Reporter managing editor Gin Dumcius after news of Driscoll’s announcement.
Apart from assuming the duties of governor if the top official is out of state, becomes incapacitated, or resigns, the lieutenant governor’s only statutorily prescribed power is the often unenviable task of chairing meetings of the sometimes unruly Governor’s Council, which must approve judicial nominations.
It’s almost a given that people run for lieutenant governor as a stepping stone to higher office, though more often than not it hasn’t turned out that way.
While the job doesn’t come with clearly delineated authority, the LG can play an important role in state government – depending on the amount of responsibility the governor wants to delegate to the person. While voters in party primaries separately choose nominees for governor and lieutenant governor, that hasn’t stopped some candidates from forming unofficial slates. Most notably in recent decades was the pairing of Bill Weld for governor and Paul Cellucci for lieutenant governor on the Republicans’ winning 1990 ticket. Cellucci, a longtime state lawmaker, proved to be a valuable bridge for the administration to legislators and local officials for Weld, who had no real ties to those worlds.
Tim Murray, the one-time mayor of Worcester, played a similar role as LG for Deval Patrick, and current Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has continued that pattern as the Baker administration’s liaison to local leaders.
Driscoll quickly seemed to position herself as the LG candidate best able to take up that role, touting her deep background in local government. “The experience at the municipal level is different. There’s no hiding in a job like this,” said Driscoll, who was just sworn in to her fifth four-year term as mayor. “Somebody has to act locally. I think that’s where I can be helpful. I know that world.”
His trajectory from that point on may be more the exception than rule when it comes to those who have held the LG’s post. But Kerry’s subsequent track record of election to the US Senate, winning his party’s presidential nomination, and stint as secretary of state is clearly the kind of upward mobility this year’s crop of ambitious LG wannabes are dreaming about.