Massachusetts Mayors Are Staying Out of the Governor Primary

Twenty-seven of the state’s mayors—including Marty Walsh—haven’t endorsed a candidate.

Mayors are big gets for statewide candidates. They are usually well-known and well-liked in their cities, compared to other elected officials, and in many cases have very strong political operations in place.

And, at least in Massachusetts, most of them are strong Democrats. But that hasn’t translated into a huge flow of current mayors endorsing in the big gubernatorial primary taking place three weeks from today.

Martha Coakley picks up the nod from Taunton’s Tom Hoye today; that’s her seventh mayoral endorsement, joining the leaders of Fall River, Holyoke, Medford, North Adams, Salem, and Weymouth. The biggest of these, numerically and influentially, is Will Flanagan of Fall River, the state’s 10th biggest municipality.

Steve Grossman, who has dominated the endorsement race, has 13 mayors on his side; from Braintree, Fitchburg, Gloucester, Lawrence, Melrose, Newburyport, Northampton, Peabody, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, and Springfield. Dominic Sarno of Springfield represents the third-largest city; Tom Koch’s Quincy is eighth; and Lawrence and Somerville, though just out of the top 10, have a lot of Democrats.

Don Berwick, who has picked up several endorsements among state legislators, has yet to land any of the state’s 47 current mayors.

That leaves 27 unclaimed, well over half, including six of the seven most populous.

The biggest of these, obviously, is Marty Walsh. Despite rumors around the time of the Democratic state convention, Walsh has kept his powder dry—probably a wise move for such a brand-new mayor. Other relative newbies to their posts, including Rodney Elliott of Lowell and David Maher of Cambridge (both selected by fellow city councilors, not city-wide vote), or Brockton’s Bill Carpenter and New Bedford’s Jon Mitchell, might also be trying to avoid political landmines.

And others might not necessarily be choosing from among the Democratic options. I think it’s safe to guess that Lynn mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy won’t be voting for the Democratic nominee in November. And Worcester’s Joe Petty, who supported Joe Avellone prior to that candidate’s elimination, might also be keeping his options open.

Others might not want to appear too partisan, given their need for cross-party electoral support.

But part of the reluctance might be that—like a lot of party insiders—the mayors aren’t ready to make nice with Coakley, but don’t want to stick their neck out for someone as far behind in the polls as Grossman and Berwick are. It’s worth noting that most of Grossman’s mayoral endorsements came early this year, or right around the mid-June convention; there have been few since.

It will be interesting to see whether some of them jump off the fence in these final three weeks—and for those who remain on the sidelines, how quickly they leap to support the September 9 victor.