Election 2022 Massachusetts Women

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll speaks during the state’s Democratic party convention. Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey is poised to make history with her running mate, Driscoll, by becoming the first two-woman governor/lieutenant governor ticket elected to lead any state.

Kim Driscoll cut her teeth working in the trenches of municipal government, where the politics is rough-and-tumble and the decisions made by local officials often have a real — and immediate — impact on constituents’ lives.

Driscoll, 56, began her career in local government behind the scenes in city planning departments in Salem and Beverly. She later shifted to administration, after being hired by Chelsea to serve as the city’s chief legal counsel as it emerged from receivership prompted by a high-profile political scandal.

She was credited with helping turn the city’s finances around and was eventually promoted to deputy city manager, but left to run for city councilor in Salem in 1999 and served two terms before deciding to run for the city’s mayor job.

In 2006, Driscoll won a three-way, underdog race to become Salem’s first woman mayor. She has won reelection every four years since.

Driscoll says her career path has always been focused on figuring out ways local government can have a “profound and positive impact” on people’s daily lives.

“I come from the ‘get stuff done’ branch of government, where there’s no hiding,” the Democrat said in a interview. “This is where the rubber hits the road.”

Now, as she runs for lieutenant governor alongside Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey, Driscoll is stressing her roots in local government and vowing to bring her “get stuff done” governing approach to Beacon Hill.

“There’s no Republican or Democratic pothole, there’s just a pothole,” she said. “You gotta fix it. and I think that’s a skillset that’s needed on Beacon Hill.”

Driscoll emerged from a crowded field of Democrats seeking the job, after cinching support from 41.4% of the delegates at the party’s June convention.

She went on to win the Democratic Party’s nomination in a three-way race in the Sept. 6 state primary, with 46.6% of the vote.

On the campaign trail, Healey and Driscoll have pledged to make Massachusetts more affordable, uphold the state’s abortion laws, expand clean energy and strengthen civil rights protections.

“At a time when the cost of living has risen and too many working families are struggling to make ends meet, we need leadership that knows how to cut costs and deliver for people,” Driscoll said.

The daughter of a Navy cook from Lynn and accountant’s assistant from Trinidad, Driscoll grew up as a military brat living in Maryland and several other states.

Driscoll moved to Salem in 1986 to attend Salem State University, where she majored in political science and played on the women’s basketball team.

“When I came to Salem to go to college I fell in love with the city,” she said. “Even though I didn’t grow up here I felt like it was my hometown.”

She eventually met her husband, Nick, and had three children, while juggling her career in government and politics.

As Salem’s mayor, Driscoll has been credited guiding the city through an economic recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, while boosting tourism and attracting more investment to the historic “witch” city’s downtown.

Unlike Healey, Driscoll wouldn’t be breaking through any glass ceilings if she is elected as lieutenant governor in November.

That mantle belongs to Republican Jane Swift, who won a four-year term as lieutenant governor on the 1998 Republican ticket as Paul Cellucci’s running mate. Swift served for a time as governor, after Cellucci stepped down.

And, like most candidates for lieutenant governor, she knows the job largely operates under the shadows of the governor’s office.

But she has ambitious plans for the post, if elected, and wants to work on improving cooperation between municipal governments in the state to deal with big issues like climate change, transportation upgrades and housing.

“I don’t think cities and towns can thrive by themselves,” she said. “They need a strong state partner, to help tackle the challenges they face at the local level.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhinews.com.

Trending Video

Recommended for you