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.

When Patrick won the Democratic primary, his followers were leery of Murray’s centrism and apparent blandness. “He might have been viewed as more conservative by people who didn’t know him,” says Phil Johnston, the healthcare lobbyist and former Dukakis aide who was party chair in 2006. “But there was a misreading of who he was.” Murray embraced the role of campaign aggressor, and came to be seen as the regular, the guy who had already sat through the countless meetings with the political class, an ex officio vetting of Patrick that reassured people who questioned the wisdom of voting for a governor with minimal ties to the establishment. Murray was far less interested in Patrick’s agenda on social issues than in things like infrastructure investment incentives and the municipal economic benefits of bonding legislation. No wonder he ran as a number two.

Once elected, Murray settled on the role of administration fixer, “someone you can talk to,” in his own parlance. He meets with top lawmakers Monday mornings, then translates the Hill-speak, a dialect in which Patrick professes limited fluency, for the governor. He chills out the offended or befuddled legislature when the governor pillories its inaction.

When Patrick failed to persuade lawmakers to get behind a criminal justice bill, it was Murray who had beers with Gene O’Flaherty, House chair of the Judiciary Committee. (After some “powwows,” Murray says, Patrick signed the legislation into law in August.) And when police unions threatened to make an ugly show of their anger about curbed benefits at June’s state Democratic convention in Worcester, it was Murray who convened a meeting of Patrick and the cops in his office. The convention was peaceful, Patrick says, because the police “didn’t want to embarrass Tim. They love Tim like I do.”

MURRAY’S MOST IMPORTANT ROLE, however, may be as the administration’s fundraiser in chief. After Patrick proved surprisingly lackluster at the job, Murray banked over $1 million in the administration’s second year, nearly 50 percent more than Patrick himself. Murray says he throws three or four fundraisers per week. None are too small. “There are people who say you shouldn’t go to an event unless you [raise] $5,000 or $10,000 or $15,000. To me, if someone gives you $5, they’re just as invested in making sure that you’re successful.”

It’s not all house parties in New Bedford, though. Murray also has a coterie of check-writers in New York. And he’s third in command at the national Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association, a job that unshackles him for nationwide trips, during which he scoops up more reelection financing.