A political development today in Massachusetts may possibly be the first duck in the row of events that will lead to a change in the Obama administration.
This morning, Bay State residents were surprised to learn that Lt. Governor Tim (“Crash”) Murray is stepping down. He will reportedly take on the job as President of the Worcester (MA) Chamber of Commerce. The position pays $200,000 a year, and a vote by the Worcester C of C to approve this is expected to take place this afternoon.
While the $200K is a pay hike, there may be more to this than meets the eye.
In Murray’s role as Lt. Governor, he’d be the designated successor if Governor Deval Patrick were to unexpectedly depart before his term is up. But Murray has been a target of controversy due in part to his apparent need for speed but also due to his longtime friendship with embattled former Chelsea Housing Authority head Michael E. McLaughlin.
Murray had already announced that he has no intent to run for governor in the 2014 elections, but why the sudden departure? Are we to assume that Worcester’s C of C is that badly in need of leadership? Did Murray’s auto insurance premiums go up that much, and now he needs the raise? All of these are possible answers.
Here’s another possibility: Anyone who has been watching Deval Patrick for the past six years knows that the man has been yearning to be the Attorney General of the United States. Patrick spent the first two years of his first term working hard to get Barack Obama elected, going so far as to be a trial-run test-subject of sorts for many of what would soon after become Obama’s speeches and campaign slogans. Shortly after Eric Holder got the AG job, Patrick slipped into a highly visible funk and was well on his way to losing re-election in 2010 because he simply didn’t seem to care about the job any longer. That seemed to turn around, as I recall, after a behind closed doors meeting between Patrick and Obama.
Flash forward to the present: Eric Holder has been taking a lot of heat of late, and we’re starting to hear the first whispers that he may not be with the Obama administration much longer. With recent reports of the FBI monitoring the communication of reporters (among other Obama administration scandals that have suddenly sprung up), Holder may be turning into an anchor around Obama’s neck. That won’t last long, and that anchor will sink alone.
So how does the Murray resignation play into this? With about 18 months to go until the next Massachusetts gubernatorial election, potential candidates will be announcing soon (likely right after next month’s special election for the open US Senate seat). Murray might be good for his word not to run, but he could always change his mind. More likely, an unpopular and only marginally competent Murray in the corner office at Beacon Hill could damage the chances of a Democrat winning the election. Patrick’s election, after all, broke a long streak of Republican governors elected in one of the most deeply blue states in the country.
The Massachusetts constitution does not grant to the governor the authority to appoint a replacement for a vacant Lt. Governor. Next in line is Secretary of State Bill Galvin…a competent, uncontroversial career politician who is well liked by both sides. Conveniently, he’s also a Democrat, and more conveniently he’s served as acting governor during both the Mitt Romney and Jane Swift years. There’s been talk of him running for Governor in the past, but he’s never made the leap. If, for some reason, Deval Patrick step down in the near future that would give Galvin about a year and a half as acting governor, enough to plant him firmly in the public eye as the state’s chief exec as well as giving him a credible claim to being experienced in the role.
So, to recap: with Murray moving back to Worcester and the solid Democratic replacement in the wings, things are positioned for a smooth transition should Deval Patrick’s phone ring with the caller ID showing a 202 area code.
Me? I have mixed emotions. I can’t wait to see Deval Patrick get out of Massachusetts government, but he’s on the short list of people I’d name as “possibly a worse AG than Eric Holder.”
Now I know how Georgians felt in 1976 when Governor Jimmy Carter was elected President.