Hack in Action

Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray is exactly the kind of politician Deval Patrick railed against four years ago. He’s also the reason Patrick may win again in November.

Murray relishes the role of the administration’s traveling salesman — in large part because he needs to. For an array of petitioners and interest groups, he is the familiar face in the executive office, the primary point of contact. If Deval Patrick has a deftness for the grand gesture, connecting with voters during even the most fleeting moments on the campaign trail, Murray is the guy carrying a small notebook, jotting down the constituents’ numbers, keeping the promises.

grants minimal powers to the lieutenant governor, and most governors have treated their number twos accordingly. Ed King, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, did not speak to Tom O’Neill. Michael Dukakis kept delaying a 1990 trip to Berlin to prevent Evelyn Murphy from issuing executive orders in his absence. Mitt Romney never sullied his imperial image with any hint that Kerry Healey was more than a junior partner.

Patrick and Murray aren’t like that, which is kind of amazing considering their different backgrounds. While Patrick scaled Harvard, Harvard Law, the Department of Justice, and Texaco, Murray went to Worcester public schools, St. John’s High, Fordham, and Western New England College School of Law before joining a Worcester law firm. His mother was a nurse, his father taught high school, and both his grandfathers were union steelworkers (one a vice president of the state AFL-CIO). Murray traces his electoral enthusiasms to a 1974 congressional race for which his dad organized meetings on behalf of losing candidate John B. Anderson, who would go onto become mayor of Worcester.

In 1997 Murray won a Worcester city council seat, and by 2001 he was mayor. The city’s bylaws prohibit the mayor from having any real authority. Yet Murray managed to empower the position anyway by lining up votes on the city council, which in turn handpicked the city manager, who then took up the agenda Murray chose. Dubbed the “boy mayor” on account of his age (he was 33), dimples, and enthusiasm, Murray used the stint to vault himself into the circle of central Massachusetts power brokers.

By 2005 the state Republican Party had atrophied under Romney’s creeping unpopularity, and Democratic Attorney General Thomas Reilly became the front-runner in the race for governor. That summer Murray talked with Reilly at a picnic, where the AG pledged he would not choose a running mate. Murray opted to run on his own for the lieutenant governor slot.

But despite his promise to Murray, Reilly had been meeting for months with venture capitalist Chris Gabrieli about the number two position. Reilly offered the post to Gabrieli, then second-guessed his decision — only to extend the offer to someone else, State Representative Marie St. Fleur. She accepted, but then dropped out a day later amid revelations about unpaid taxes and student loans.

With St. Fleur gone and Gabrieli ultimately opting to take on Reilly and Patrick for the top job, Murray faced two women on his ideological left, Deborah Goldberg of Brookline and Andrea Silbert of Harwich, for the number two spot. Murray supported toughening high school graduation standards, which both Goldberg and Silbert opposed, but he won the race less on issues than on organization, his alliance with labor propelling him onto the ticket.