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Would Marty Walsh jump into a governor’s race?

Secretary of Labor Marty WalshMario Tama/Getty

As the field gathers for what could be the wildest governor’s race in years, I have one big question:

What is Marty Walsh going to do?

Governor Charlie Baker’s decision not to seek reelection has thrown things into chaos. All kinds of names have been floated as potential candidates, ranging from the obvious to the possible to the wildly implausible.

On paper, Attorney General Maura Healey looms as the obvious Democratic front-runner. She has been elected statewide twice by huge margins, is clearly adored by the voters in her party, and has the capacity to easily raise the millions of dollars this race will take.


That’s a list of strengths no one else in the field thus far can claim.

But is Healey running? While it is true that politicians often play coy about their interest in offices beyond their own, Healey has never, to my knowledge, exhibited a driving passion for seeking the governor’s office.

I believe her ambivalence about the job is real. It’s anyone’s guess whether Baker’s departure — and the clearest path to the corner office Healey is ever likely to have — will change that.

Which brings us to Boston’s former mayor and the current secretary of labor.

His strengths are obvious. He was a well-liked mayor, with a solid political organization, and a large war chest. He would start with serious support from labor, a major Democratic power base. Business leaders also like him. He would appeal to the Democrats and Independents who loved Baker — the centrists who are nervous about the state’s politics moving too far left.

Potentially, that adds up to a lot of voters.

Walsh isn’t commenting on his desires or plans, and he isn’t likely to any time soon.

But he told anyone who would listen when he accepted the role in Washington that he planned to remain a presence in Boston, and he has made good on that.


There’s likely more at play than mere homesickness, though.

Running for governor is probably, to Walsh’s mind, a logical progression from being mayor — even though Boston mayors have ever so rarely won the corner office. The last was Maurice Tobin — in 1945.

Walsh would be making a mistake though, to assume that this would be an easy race. For many reasons, that wouldn’t be the case.

“Messy” would be a polite word to describe his frenzied departure from the mayor’s office in March.

On the way out the door — as you will recall — he made the disastrous decision to appoint Dennis White police commissioner. Not only did Walsh pick him without a search, he named him without even a glance at his personnel file — which would have revealed the domestic abuse allegations that quickly forced White out of the job.

The humanitarian crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard is also something Walsh will have to answer for. It was created, in large part, by one of Walsh’s worst decisions — the abrupt closing of the Long Island Bridge.

Not only did Mass. and Cass become an issue on his watch, Walsh did very little to address it.

And, of course, there would be the sheer brevity of his tenure in President Biden’s Cabinet. Just a few months ago, Walsh was declaring that when the president calls, there was no option but to answer.


How would he explain — less than a year later — why that’s no longer true?

I don’t mean to slight the candidates already in the race: state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, former state senator Ben Downing, and Harvard professor Danielle Allen. But none are well known statewide; they would obviously face a much more daunting challenge if Healey or Walsh were to get in.

I’d guess that a Healey-Walsh primary is unlikely (much as I would enjoy watching that). But if Healey sits it out, I could easily see Walsh running.

Because, at bottom, Marty is a Boston guy. He may have had an attack of Potomac fever, but don’t be surprised if it passes soon.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at adrian.walker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.