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Memo to Dan Koh: Don’t make a dumb run

Dan Koh (center) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh campaigned in May 2018 in Haverhill, during Koh’s campaign for the US House.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/File

To Dan Koh

Re Your trial balloon

Um, Dan, got a minute?

For a smart guy, you’re making yourself look awfully silly.

For the better part of this year, you’ve been mulling another run for Congress. And as you have, you and your camp have been trying to make a mountain out of a campaign-finance molehill to hurt Lori Trahan, who beat you in 2018 in the Third Congressional District Democratic primary.

But your effort to gin up critical coverage isn’t hurting Trahan so much as it’s muddying the reputation of someone else. You know, that beguiling guy you consult with first thing every morning. The friendly fellow who’s been your crypto-campaign Koh-conspirator, the ego-stroking admirer who smiles back at you and says, “Well, hello, Congressman Koh! How are we today?” when you shave in the morning.


You’re stuck in front of that mirror, Dan. It’s time to move on.

I know your congressional campaign loss was a major disappointment. But it isn’t as though this seat was somehow stolen from you. Your big problem was that your muddled message never got much beyond your role as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s mini-me. You positioned yourself for your run while serving as his chief of staff. That job was your principal political calling card. And your campaign was funded with big dollars Walsh helped you raise from the Boston development community.

Now, running as Marty’s man might have worked for a candidate in the seventh or eighth districts, the two districts that subsume Boston. But the Third District is the Merrimack Valley, so it’s no shock that the idea of electing the Boston mayor’s favored candidate didn’t quite take hold.

Nor is it a particular surprise that you lost to Trahan, a well-liked daughter of Lowell, the district’s center of gravity. That you outspent her by $2 million must make the loss sting even more. As must the fact that her victory margin was just 145 votes.


But after something like that, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn, and move on. Instead, you seem determined to scuff up Trahan in order to justify a rematch.

As far as I can tell, about the worst you can say of Trahan is that she and her husband may not have moved assets into her campaign war chest in the correct way. She probably should have borrowed against her share of their several properties rather than tapping a joint account.

But this isn’t skullduggery or sleaze. At worst, it’s the equivalent of a campaign parking ticket. Still, you and your cat’s paws — um, supporters — have been trying to churn this into some kind of scandal — and importuning newspapers to write about it.

Now you’ve finally declared openly what everyone has known for months: You are thinking of challenging Trahan. Because, as you see it, she won the seat unfairly or unethically. Even though you spent almost three times as much as she did.

Think for a minute about what’s implicit in such a charge: That Trahan is simply a trophy wife whose developer husband bought her a congressional seat. That this smart, accomplished one-time chief of staff for former congressman Marty Meehan, startup exec, and business consultant, really didn’t have a successful career, and hasn’t made any money of her own. That their supposed joint assets were simply his.


I’d be careful there; it’s not a message that will sit well with women.

My prediction: If you challenge Trahan, she’ll kick your tail. Led by Greater Lowell, the district will rally around her, the more so because running the negative campaign you’ve laid the groundwork for will require you to launch off-putting attacks against a very likeable person.

So give it a rest, Dan. Dial your ego down a little. You’ve got promise. Your opportunity will come soon enough — as long as you don’t make yourself look like a whiny loser in the meantime, that is.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.