When John Adams, who served under George Washington, once called the vice presidency “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived,” he, in many minds, might just as well have been talking about the lieutenant governor position in Massachusetts.
The job description is pretty short: Preside over meetings of the equally obscure Governor’s Council, and assume the top spot should the sitting governor leave office or die. Some would say the post is so inessential that when Tim Murray left to lead the Worcester Chamber of Commerce in 2013, the spot easily remained open for the last two years of Gov. Deval Patrick’s term.
So why is the $165,000-a-year post gaining so much attention in 2022, at least in Democratic circles? Almost a dozen candidates have launched campaigns or dropped hints that one is imminent. And why should voters care at this early date?
There have been four announced lieutenant governor candidates so far — state Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield, state Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton, Babson College lecturer Bret Bero, and state Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, who launched his bid Tuesday. Locally, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said she is giving a run “serious consideration,” as is Lawrence’s former interim mayor Kendrys Vasquez.
Part of the attraction, at least on the Democratic side, is the fact that there is no Republican running for governor with the statewide appeal of incumbent Charlie Baker, who would have been considered a favorite for reelection had he decided not to run for a third term.
Geoff Diehl, the main declared GOP candidate, is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump with little appeal to the moderates and independents who make up much of the Massachusetts electorate. Any Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, paired with a strong governor candidate such as the yet-to-declare Attorney General Maura Healey, would have a relatively smooth path to higher office.
Once in office, there is a fair chance the top spot will become available. Paul Cellucci, Bill Weld’s second-in-command, moved up when Weld left office in 1997 in a failed bid to become U.S. ambassador to Mexico. When Cellucci left in 2001 to become U.S. ambassador to Canada, Jane Swift became acting governor.
That makes this a race to watch, even if the stakes seem low.