SALEM — Kim Driscoll is taking a “serious look” at a bid for Massachusetts lieutenant governor, the Salem mayor said last week.
The position is held today by Karyn Polito, who serves alongside Gov. Charlie Baker. The two recently announced they won’t run for a third term in 2022, sparking intense discussion across the state
Driscoll, re-elected to a historic fifth term as mayor Nov. 2, was characterized in a “Massachusetts Playbook” post on Politico earlier this month as “seriously considering” a run for lieutenant governor. The post said Driscoll is getting “encouragement from her counterparts at a recent Massachusetts mayors meeting.” It further quoted Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo as saying Driscoll “has been a leader for all of us” and that he felt she “should be running for governor, but realistically she’s thinking about lieutenant governor.”
Driscoll confirmed that she’s “been getting some calls of encouragement and lots of folks expressing support if I were to seek a statewide position.”
It wasn’t something Driscoll had been considering, she said.
“It certainly isn’t something I was planning on, but I am going to take a serious look at it, if there’s an opportunity to serve,” she said. “I’m speaking to people about it, including other mayors, folks statewide and, of course, my family.”
Joan Lovely, now a state senator, served alongside Driscoll on the City Council a couple decades ago.
“She was a Ward 5 councilor. I was a Ward 3 councilor. Then she was mayor, and I’m a councilor-at-large,” Lovely said. “When she took over as mayor, she was met with financial difficulties, not enough transparency in government. She really wanted to — and still speaks to it today — professionalize municipal government, which she has absolutely achieved.”
Along the way, Driscoll, 55, has made allies across the state, something Lovely said serves the lieutenant governor post perfectly.
“One thing about Lt. Gov. Polito is she’s visited every city and town, all 351 cities and towns throughout the commonwealth,” Lovely said. “Kim, she has reached out across the commonwealth. She’s in touch with many mayors, town administrators across the state — ‘how are you doing this?’, ‘how did you do that?’ or they reach out to you.”
Salem State University President John Keenan has taken a similar path in his life, serving as a city solicitor in Salem from 1996 to 2004, during Driscoll’s councilor years. He then went on to serve nine years in the Statehouse before becoming general counsel and vice president for administration at Salem State in 2014. He became president August 2017, all while Driscoll’s served as mayor.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve said this — she’s one of the best mayors in the state, and she’s done an outstanding job for the past 16 years,” Keenan said. “She would be a very strong candidate, and in many ways like Mayor (Thomas) Menino, a municipal mechanic who knows the ins and outs.”
Driscoll was just elected to her fifth four-year term as Salem’s mayor on Nov. 2, which won’t begin until Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. The term runs until the first Monday of 2026.
By Salem’s city charter, if there is mayoral vacancy within the first three years of a four-year term, a special election is held to finish the term. If a vacancy hits in the fourth year, the City Council must elect one of its members within 30 days to serve as acting mayor; if they fail to do so, the City Council president becomes acting mayor automatically.
Of course, Driscoll has plenty of reason to stay in Salem. Driscoll’s defeat of Ward 7 City Councilor Steve Dibble in this year’s elections sets her up to tie Francis Collins as Salem’s longest-serving mayor, with five terms at four years each; currently, she’s at 16 years of service. Collins served 10 consecutive two-year terms. She’s also the city’s 50th mayor, as well as the first woman elected to the seat going back to its creation in 1836.
On top of all that, Keenan said, Driscoll is an ally in government regardless of where she works.
“She has been an outstanding partner for Salem State and an advocate on many fronts,” Keenan said. “I look forward to working with her, as she’s been re-elected or whatever the future holds. I’m a strong fan of the mayor’s ability.”
There have been three announced lieutenant governor candidates so far — state Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield, state Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton and Babson College lecturer Bret Bero. State Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow is also said to be considering a bid.