Massachusetts Democratic Party officials elected a new chairman Monday, choosing a veteran pollster who has held leadership positions in the state and national parties.
Gus Bickford edged out Steve Kerrigan, the Democrats’ 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor, by a tally of 156-148, according to the State House News Service.
Bickford replaces outgoing chairman Tom McGee, a state senator from Lynn.
In an interview, Bickford said a top priority will be helping a Democrat win the governor’s race in 2018, when the party’s nominee is expected to face Republican incumbent Charlie Baker.
“With the defeat of Question 2, we have a road map going forward,” Bickford said of the failed ballot question to expand charter schools in Massachusetts, which was backed by Baker but opposed by labor groups.
The state Democratic Party voted in August to oppose the ballot question.
Bickford, 53, said he does not have a preferred candidate in mind to challenge Baker.
“I’ve been involved in all the governor’s elections” since the early 1990s, Bickford said. “And I know that we have incredible candidates for the governor’s race who will come out in the near future. My role as chair is to make sure that the foundation is in place for the day after the primary.”
Party officials could not be reached for comment late Monday.
Suffolk Sheriff Steven Tompkins, who had the support of Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, was eliminated after the first round of voting, the News Service tweeted.
Kerrigan’s supporters included state Attorney General Maura Healey and Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg. Bickford’s backers included McGee’s predecessor, John E. Walsh.
Bickford previously served as the state party’s executive director, and has served multiple terms as a Democratic National Committee member, according to his biography posted on the website of Factotum Productions, his political consulting firm.
Bickford said he will close the company when he takes over as chairman.