Reporter's Notebook | Murray rings the bell: Campaign 2014 is on

If the 2014 election cycle needed an official start time and date, it got one last week: At 8:32 a.m. on Thurs., Nov. 15, a week and a day after Bay Staters had gone to the polls to pick a president and a US senator, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray stood in front of the podium at the Intercontinental Hotel and showed a little leg: “Like many of you in the room, and many people across the Commonwealth, I would like to be governor,” Murray told attendees of a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast. “I think it’s okay to say that out loud.”

The comments came at the tail end of his speech, a soft launch that sketched out his duties and accomplishments in Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration such as working on housing and homelessness, veterans, and freight and rail issues. The lieutenant governor’s painful job of babysitting the unruly Governor’s Council – an independently elected body that bickers constantly in between votes on the governor’s judicial nominees – went unmentioned.

“For those of us who will look at 2014, Democrat or Republican, it comes down to a very personal decision for each of us, both the impact on our families, and the impact each of us thinks we can have on the future of this state and of each person who lives here,” Murray said.

The lieutenant governor isn’t the only person seen to be angling for the Corner Office. State Treasurer Steven Grossman, a Democrat like Murray and just as ambitious, has made clear he plans to take a look at running for the same office. “Right now in Massachusetts, there are 30 or 40 politicians who are gathering their closest advisers around a table and playing whatever version of ‘Deval Patrick dominoes’ they think is going to fly here,” state Democratic Party chairman John Walsh recently told minority activists, according to the State House News Service. Patrick has ruled out a third-term run.

That scenario includes a few Republicans, among them outgoing US Sen. Scott Brown, who will give up his seat in January to consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, and Charlie Baker, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 when Patrick won his second term.

In an interview with WCVB, former Republican Gov. Bill Weld, who is returning to Massachusetts and signing up with the law firm Mintz Levin, called Baker and Brown “two 800-pound gorillas” in Bay State politics. True enough, but any competent Massachusetts Republican can look like a giant primate when the rest of their state party appears to be a motley collection of 8-ounce Chihuahuas.

If the GOP stays in the same pit it has been stuck in for several cycles now, waiting for the occasional white knight to ride to their electoral rescue while at the same time neglecting the grassroots, then the Democratic primary will be a bigger worry for Murray than the Republican opponent waiting for him in the final run.

Opponents are likely to have a field day with Murray’s ties to Michael McLaughlin, the former Chelsea housing authority head who drew a massive paycheck and allegedly misused federal funds. The Boston Globe has extensively documented McLaughlin’s misbehavior.

At the Intercontinental Hotel breakfast, Murray said he would not be making any campaign announcements for the time being. His speech, aside from listing his accomplishments, also noted how closely he has worked with Gov. Patrick, even though they did not run on a joint ticket in 2006. “From the first day, really from well before the first day in office, Governor Patrick recognized my experience and goals,” Murray said. “He understood how we could work together to help address the challenges facing us and put me to work, and I’m grateful to him for that.”

Or, as a Boston magazine profile of Murray from 2010 put it, in starker terms: “For an array of petitioners and interest groups, he is the familiar face in the executive office, the primary point of contact. If Deval Patrick has a deftness for the grand gesture, connecting with voters during even the most fleeting moments on the campaign trail, Murray is the guy carrying a small notebook, jotting down the constituents’ numbers, keeping the promises.”

Whether Murray can turn the notebook full of numbers and kept promises into a coalition backing a potential baggage-ridden candidacy will be one of the many questions sure to come up during this latest election cycle.

Davey: Speculation is ‘silly’
In between 2012 and 2014, a potential fight for control of City Hall looms. Mayor Thomas Menino’s lengthy stay at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has set off a smattering of wild speculation about whether there will be an open seat in the top office next year.

Rich Davey is one of the potential candidates being floated in the press. A Holy Cross graduate and Back Bay resident, Davey holds one of the toughest jobs in state government: transportation secretary, a position he took last year after a stint at the helm of the MBTA. Asked about the speculation, he labeled it “silly.” On his way out of the Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast, he noted that he has a lot on his plate next year, alluding to the transportation financing plan the administration is working on.

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