Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Murray's out. What happens if Patrick follows?

Call us crazy, but in our humble opinion, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray's sudden resignation to take a $200K job with the Worcester Chamber of Commerce just doesn't pass the sniff test.

Why would the Chamber shell out so much cash for someone who is known more for his driving record than his ability to get things done on Beacon Hill? More to the point, why would the Chamber appoint someone as its Executive Director when that person will specifically be barred by law from lobbying the administration until after his "cooling off period" is done?

Something's up. And, just letting our imaginations run wild, we think it must have something to do with the future of the current administration and its head, Governor Patrick.

Which leads us to this important question: What happens if Patrick were to leave, too? After all, he himself has been widely rumored to be under serious consideration for a post with the Obama Administration, including perhaps filling Attorney General Holder's shoes at some point.

Massachusetts law has no provision for the appointment of a Lieutenant Governor when that office is vacant, which means both offices would be unfilled and the top job would pass to Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin until January 2015.

Here's our prediction – Odds are that Patrick will leave, but Galvin won't be Governor.

Let's face it. The Legislature can't help itself in these situations. Beacon Hill politicians love to fill vacancies. It's a great way for connected people to get a job. Heck, the only thing they seem to love more is getting people a job over at Probation (and we all know how that goes...).

We predict some intrepid legislator who's willing to "take one for the team," or perhaps even the Governor himself, will introduce legislation in the next few days to allow for the appointment of a Lieutenant Governor in the case of a vacancy in that office. And, despite the fact we're not even sure that would be constitutional, we expect it will probably sail right through. After all, it would make sense to have the seat filled, right?

Playing all of this through to its logical conclusion, there is a real possibility Massachusetts Democrats will be able to pave the way for someone – someone who most likely doesn't already hold statewide office and who was not selected by voters for an executive job – to be appointed acting Lieutenant Governor, and then acting Governor, and to thereby be the favorite for the job heading into the 2014 election cycle. Our guess is that Tim Murray didn't work for Massachusetts Democrats in this scenario, so he was ushered somewhere safe to open up the way for someone else.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps. But, at least give us this much – as of this time yesterday, who really would have predicted that Tim Murray would start next week pulling down $200K a year at the Worcester Chamber of Commerce? In Massachusetts politics, expect the unexpected.

No matter what, if we were Republicans on Beacon Hill, we'd want to read this year's final budget very carefully to make sure an appointment provision doesn't magically appear. Republicans should vigorously oppose any such plan.