Briefings: Ramos Passes on Executive Springfield Pursuits…
Less than a week after missing his self-imposed decision deadline, Springfield Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos announced he would not run for mayor. Last month, the three-term councilor said he was “seriously considering” challenging Domenic Sarno this year. However, in a statement released early Tuesday evening, Ramos said he would seek reelection to his current office.
Ramos’ flirtation with a mayoral bid made him the first sitting elected to openly muse about unseating the incumbent. Despite some impressions, Sarno is not unbeatable and a stable of ambitious pols in the city exists. Although Ramos did not mention this, taking on Sarno will be a steep climb for any candidate.
“I truly appreciate the outpouring of support that I received,” Ramos said in his statement. “Unfortunately, I’ve concluded that it was not the right timing,” he added, confirming plans to seek reelection to the Ward 8 Council seat.
The councilor had originally said he would decide by the end of February. But that was before the smoldering crisis at the police department seemingly erupted into a conflagration and consumed now-former Police Commissioner John Barbieri.
A fresh round of troubling videos put the mayor on his heels, even as he refused to revive the five-member Police Commission as a 2016 ordinance commands. Sarno has appeared wan on TV as he sought to reassert control of the situation. To counter pressure on the Commission, Sarno showcased his civilian complaint board, which critics deride as toothless.
Since the Bigda video started this recent round of turmoil at Pearl Street, Ramos had been ratcheting up his criticism of the mayor. Last year, while Council President, he pressed new regulations for property tax breaks and led them to passage—over Sarno’s veto.
Yet the Ward 8 Councilor was not seen as a 2019 mayoral candidate. A major reason was his then-job working for Senator James Welch. A run for such a high office would be neither practical nor prudent for employee or employer. But word of Ramos’ mayoral consideration also brought news he had left the senator’s office.
In the two weeks before, Ramos had floated several proposals of citywide import. As recently as Monday’s Council meeting, Ramos was pushing city officials on new police spending related to overtime. But he wasn’t really pummeling Chief Administrative and Financial Officer Timothy Plante. It was, at its most aggressive, more exploratorily surgical.
Following his pass on the race, these actions now seems more ambiguous. Ramos’ interrogation of Plante is not necessarily new and as chair of the Public Safety Committee it was certainly relevant. As for the policy proposals, Ramos, like many of his colleagues, caught the legislating bug long ago. However, it appears he’ll be doing it from the Council chamber.
Without Ramos, no major players are even in contention. General disgruntlement about Sarno’s reign augurs in favor of perhaps a token challenge materializing. But even a candidate capable of mounting a serious effort has little time left to do so.
One factor that must have affected Ramos’ decision making was Sarno’s 25 to 1 fundraising advantage.
Time is not up yet. In 2013, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino retired at the end of March and unleashed a battalion of mayoral aspirants. Many were able to raise substantial sums. A Springfield contest would cost a fraction as much. Those candidates were not challenging an incumbent, but it shows good candidates can summon electoral moolah quickly.
There are other risks. While Sarno’s political reach is minimal, its exact nature is not well-understood. Among interests that benefit from his rule, he has resources to deter challengers if not smite all (or any) enemies.
Perhaps most important, however, is time itself. Running for mayor is a full-time job, a prospect that may have daunted Ramos as well. Indeed, almost any path to dethroning Sarno will involve outhustling him. Any serious threats to Sarno must both outwork him and still be able to eat.