Meet Bret Bero, the candidate the pollsters forgot.
Bero, 63, is running for lieutenant governor. Unlike four other Democrats who have filed campaign finance reports, he isn’t an elected official. He has run a small business and now lectures on business management at Babson College. It’s the kind of resumé that guarantees disrespect from a political universe that runs on conventional thinking. If no one in that universe knows who you are, you’re nobody. And if you’re nobody, you can’t win and you deserve to be forgotten. And so Bero was forgotten, in two polls — Policy For Progress, published in January by MassINC Polling Group and UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion released in April.
Being left out generated the most publicity Bero has so far received. He gets the irony, but will take the attention. “The system is geared toward those who already hold elective office,” Bero told me during a recent interview. The next big question, he said, is whether he can get support from 15 percent of the delegates to the Democratic state convention — enough to make the ballot.
Political coverage is all about who is up in the polls and who has the most money — and one usually affects the other. That isn’t news, but it has consequences. When the focus is on so-called horse race coverage — instead of policy — a growing body of research shows that “voters, candidates, and the news industry itself suffer,” the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy recently reported. The research shows that horse race coverage can hurt female candidates, give an advantage to novel and unusual candidates (hello Donald Trump), and shortchange third-party candidates. It helps the status quo stay that way and hobbles candidates like Bero.
The race for lieutenant governor is a microcosm of how that system works — and all for a job that has one official duty, to preside over the Governor’s Council, when the governor doesn’t. Otherwise, it’s about pining for a meaningful assignment and being ready to step in if the governor becomes sick, dies, or otherwise leaves office. To that electoral end, the more than $1 million raised by state Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow excites insiders. I recently wrote about Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and the executive experience she would bring to the job. But because she has only $133,977 in campaign cash, according to her latest filing, insiders are questioning her electoral viability. Senator Adam Hinds of Pittsfield has a little over $294,000. Senator Tami L. Gouveia of Acton has $78,620. Bero has about $173,000 — after initially loaning his campaign $200,000 and investing another $200,000. And there I go, following the same old script — talking about money.
Like every other candidate, Bero claims the open-ended nature of the lieutenant governor’s job is appealing: “That’s not a glitch, but a feature,” he said. “The lieutenant governor can addresses issues at the moment they are critical.” He believes his business background is an advantage that sets him apart. He began his career at Digital Equipment Corp. After earning an MBA at Dartmouth, he worked as a management consultant. In 1997, he bought a small metal-forming company in Orange, which he owned until its sale in 2019. He also served on the Carlisle town finance committee.
Politically, he calls himself a “pragmatic progressive.” Bero was an unenrolled or independent voter until 2021. He voted for Governor Charlie Baker in his first successful run for governor, and has contributed to Baker and former governor Bill Weld. He said he registered as a Democrat for two reasons: After the pandemic devastated small businesses, he saw the Democratic Party as best suited to help with recovery; and in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, it was especially important to choose sides. After that attack, he said, “the Republican Party ceased being a party that represented democracy.”
A third reason would be to run for office, which he’s doing.
Is there room in the Democratic Party, and on the Democratic primary ballot, for a candidate like Bero? “I believe in democracy,” said Bero. “If you believe in democracy, you should believe that more choice is a good thing.”
In the meantime, he has the title of a post-campaign book already scoped out: “An outsider’s insider’s experience on how running for office really works.”
Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.