All Quiet On The Mass. GOP 2014 Front

So far, no state Republican seems likely to run for Treasurer, and that's bad news for the party.

It’s been clear for quite some time that there will be an open state Treasurer’s seat in 2014, with Steve Grossman planning to run for governor. Treasurer should be a tempting target for Massachusetts Republicans: Grossman won the seat by only 10 points over a likable but deeply flawed candidate for the office, Karyn Polito. So, you would think that interested potential candidates would be starting to angle for position. Perhaps not openly running yet—although the sooner they start raising money the better—but at least spreading word among their fellow party activists.

I’ve been asking around among such activists, and if there are any Republicans interested in running for Treasurer, they’re certainly keeping it a well-guarded secret. I couldn’t get anyone to come up with a single name.

This is discouraging but not all that surprising. The 2012 defeat of Scott Brown, by a wide margin, has left the state party in as deep a gloom as I’ve ever seen it, and that’s saying something. Beyond the occasional state rep or municipal-level success, state Republicans feel like they’re up against odds not even worth the effort.

It’s hard to argue against the pessimism, but it’s getting brutally self-defeating. Without good candidates willing to run, Republican hopes will diminish from slim to none. And right now, there appears to be nobody willing to even float their name for that juicy Treasurer race, let alone Auditor, or Secretary of State — and the only name under conjecture for Attorney General is Dan Winslow, last seen failing to be competitive in the US Senate primary.

The more glass-half-full among those I spoke with—well, maybe quarter-full—say the situation might change if Gabriel Gomez does well in the coming general election. Even if he doesn’t win but comes within, say, five percentage points, that could raise hopes that the field is not completely lopsided.

It might also mean that Gomez (or another strong candidate) turns around to run against Ed Markey in 2014 for a full six-year term. That, plus a gubernatorial candidacy of Charlie Baker (who is not tipping his hand yet), would provide the top-of-the-ticket strength to draw others into the statewide races. (Interestingly, the one office with plenty of rumored interest is lieutenant governor, on the assumption of Baker at the top of the ticket.)

On the other hand, if Gomez gets his clock cleaned in four weeks, that might be enough to convince Baker to skip the second run, and pretty much leave the 2014 GOP US Senate nomination to whoever is willing and able to gather the 10,000 signatures. And that would likely be a representative of the last energetic Republicans left in the state: the hardline conservatives on gays, guns, and immigrants.

And that’s the road upon which some of the gloomier Republicans fear their party is heading—one in which the field is left open for candidates of far-right activist groups. That’s already been happening in far too many of the congressional races of late, serving only to turn off the state’s independent voters.

So, while it’s obviously early, and there is plenty of time for stronger candidates to come forward, there is also reason for the state GOP to be worried at the total absence of interest to date.