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Executive Privilege: Grossman’s Pointe…

Executive Privilege is a series on the 2014 race for Governor and other Constitutional offices in Massachusetts.

Treasurer Steve Grossman in 2010 (WMassP&I)

For nearly three years it seems like Massachusetts could not get enough of democracy.  The state has been voting and voting and voting since the special Senate election spread across 2009 and 2010.  Normally by now the race to replace retiring Governor Deval Patrick would have already heated up.  Behind the scenes, some like Treasurer Steve Grossman have been doing just that.

In a state the size of Massachusetts, among the most expensive in which to campaign, with relatively low contribution limits, the time to gear up is now.  This is all the more true since at least some contenders, like Congressmen Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch need to raise money anew.  They cannot transfer money from their federal accounts.

That puts Grossman in a very good position.  He already has an existing account for a gubernatorial bid.  A former Chair of the National Democratic Party, he has access to countless donors, mitigating the low contribution limit.  When Tim Murray dropped out earlier this year, Grossman became the only statewide official “in” the race.

He could also probably beat the other opponents out there.  There is no doubt Grossman could win the 15% needed to advance from the convention to the primary ballot.  Under that arithmetic, no more than 6 candidate could emerge and odds are not that many actually would.

Cong. Capuano (via wikipedia)

Cong. Lynch (via wikipedia)

As it stands, the congressmen may be peskiest opponents for Grossman.  Both Capuano and Lynch have admirers across the state they could mobilize, but given their initial financial disadvantage, there is a of ground to make up.  Both Dr. Donald Berwick and Senator Dan Wolf could be intriguing candidates and the latter could self-fund, but raising profile remains a daunting task.

Although the frontrunner, Grossman has yet to make it official.  Those close to him say an announcement is not due until late summer after the Democratic convention in Lowell this July.  There was a push to do it before the Democratic convention, but that did not happen as Grossman confidants worried about the Treasurer just looking like another candidate tossing in a job application.

The Tsongas Arena will host the 2013 Massachusetts Democratic Convention on July 13. It is a platform convention. No nominees will be selected. (via wikipedia)

That calculation may be upset though as the Democratic party announced it would not allow potential candidates to speak unless they had announced by July 8.  Grossman could avoid that, however, as a sitting Constitutional Officer of the Commonwealth.

Assuming he does not need to announce early, plans call for the late summer announcement to kickoff a series of statewide events, according to those close to Grossman.  Even so, announcing sooner or later would be mostly semantic.  Anybody who follows politics in the state knows Grossman is running, just unofficially.

Sen. Barry Finegold D-Andover (via

Indeed, the race to replace Grossman has already begun.  Andover State Senator Barry Finegold has all, but announced he is running for Treasurer, respectfully waiting for Grossman to announce for governor.  But Finegold has already made several trips out to Western Massachusetts to meet activists and so far, other suspected Treasurer aspirants, like Boston at-large Councilor Stephen Murphy have not.  Finegold also may benefit from a network of state senators, presuming no other state senator makes the leap to race.  Constitutional offices are a favorite of legislators seeking higher office as openings in the commonwealth’s Congressional delegation are so rare.

But back to the top job where the Grossman camp may have gotten a jolt last week.

Attorney General Martha Coakley (via Huffington Post)

Martha Coakley said she was running for Attorney General again in 2014.  Many did not believe her especially, as her popularity has recovered following her ignominious loss to Scott Brown and overwhelming reelection as AG.  News from The Globe that she is weighing a bid for Governor does not come as a total surprise then.  That Senate defeat still weighs heavily on party activists, but her very public push for LGBT rights and constant presence at political events may have taken the edge off 2010 and other policies not so beloved by many of the party faithful.

The divide over Coakley is well-illustrated in just one region.  Left in Lowell’s Lynne Lupien seems opposed while fellow Lowellite North Middlesex Registrar of Deed Richard Howe seems receptive.

Coakley, while not as much a juggernaut as she was in the 2009-2010 special senate primary, is probably one of the very few figures who can match Grossman’s advantages in the primary and more so.  According to The Globe, both EMILY’s List, a group committed to electing pro-choice woman Democrats, and the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA) seem poised to help her, making money no object.  She is popular and more importantly, as AG, people know her.

Rivals? Coakley & Grossman at Ed Markey Primary Victory 4/30 (via BU News Service)

Rivals? Coakley & Grossman applaud Ed Markey’s on Primary night April 30 (via BU News Service)

What may be Grossman’s biggest problem may be exactly what attracted the notice of the DGA.  National Dems may have doubts about Grossman’s ability to defeat Charlie Baker, the Republicans’ 2010 gubernatorial nominee, or Scott Brown, the Massachusetts GOP’s Prince of Denmark.

This also complicates the relationship Grossman has with the left of the party, which can be suspicious of a man who, to them, screams establishment.  In Massachusetts, that is the very thing of which activists wish to free the state and the party.

Many of those same activists are suspicious of Coakley, but mostly for her campaign for Senate and to a lesser extent privacy and law enforcement decisions.  Others see her hand behind the death of Tim Murray’s political career.  She, too, is an establishment figure having risen up through the Middlesex County D.A.’s office behind former AG Tom Reilly, whose own gubernatorial bid was felled by Deval Patrick.

If you were Berwick, Capuano, Lynch or Wolf, Coakley’s entrance could be great news.  Were Coakley to run an establishment-oriented campaign in 2014, cashing in favors and minimizing the grassroots, she could split a certain segment of the vote with Grossman leaving the strongest of the four a chance to surge.   If she can capture the support of trust of the activists and grassroots, that is far less likely.

The same holds true for Grossman and that may be the next card he needs to play to secure the nomination—and then have enough troops for a likely tough general.