Race for Democratic chief heating up
Two more potential challengers to the state Democratic Party chairman, Thomas McGee, emerged last week, with former lieutenant governor nominee Stephen J. Kerrigan and former Fitchburg mayor Lisa Wong calling committee members to sound out support.
Kerrigan and Wong join Governor’s Councilor Eileen Duff in dialing party activists to both measure and drum up support in advance of the state party’s vote at its November meeting. McGee, a state senator from Lynn, has not made it clear whether he intends to seek a second term.
Asked Friday whether McGee will work to keep the post, state party executive director Jason Cincotti declined to comment. He also declined to comment when asked to respond to rumors bouncing around political circles that McGee planned to run next year for mayor of Lynn, a post held by Republican Judith Flanagan Kennedy.
Contested races for the state party’s top leadership role are rare, with transfers of power in recent years more often ironed out behind the scenes.
Reached via phone on Friday, Kerrigan, a longtime Democratic operative at both the state and national levels, declined to comment directly on whether he planned to challenge McGee.
“I’ve always been focused on the future of the Democratic Party and making sure we have the strongest party we can,” he said.
A person close to Kerrigan said he would prefer to run for an open seat, but did not rule out an effort to unseat McGee.
“The calls to him and the requests to get in the race are certainly increasing,” the person said.
Wong, elected in 2007 as the state’s first Asian-American mayor, served four terms and opted not to seek a fifth last year. She hinted strongly that she intended to run.
“I can confirm that I am somebody that is considering running,” Wong said. “I was approached a couple months ago by some state committee members to consider it. There’s been some support. Frankly, I’m still thinking about it and I’m only going to do it if I can bring the party together, because party unity is my number-one goal.”
State committee members who have approached her have argued for change in the party leadership, Wong said, adding, “in the last couple of months, I do agree that there has to be change.”
Another activist, Mike Lake, who unsuccessfully challenged Suzanne Bump for the auditor’s job in the 2010 primary, had been mentioned as a potential candidate, but he said he is working on Duff’s behalf.
McGee has been criticized by some Democratic activists, who argue that the party during Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s reign has not been aggressive enough. There are no clear Democratic challengers to Baker in his expected run for reelection in 2018.
But the party has been more critical of Baker in recent weeks. After the Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner and deputy commissioner were suspended for using taxpayer dollars on a July 3 party near the Esplanade, the party released a statement saying Republicans had fostered a culture where “blatant disregard for the law is met with a slap on the hand and a time out.”
Former state party chair John Walsh, McGee’s immediate predecessor, offered a note of support for McGee.
“I’m happy to be a supporter of Tom and, honestly, I think he’s doing a good job,” Walsh said Friday. “It’s a very, very difficult job and anybody who hasn’t done it doesn’t recognize how tough it can be some days.”