Joe Curtatone Isn’t Running for Governor—Who Fills the Void?

He doesn't want to deal with the constant, round-the-clock, state-wide campaigning.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone had me fooled. I thought it was a done deal that he was running for governor in 2014. He announced on Wednesday that he is not.

“I thought about this long and hard for many months,” he told me. “I went back and forth.”

Ultimately, he says, he wasn’t willing to give up the time he spends with his wife and children for the year of constant, round-the-clock, state-wide campaigning. That sounds like an excuse, but a couple of people close to him say they believe it.

In any event, his exit leaves some interesting voids in the race—counter-roles to the two heavyweight Democratic frontrunners, Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman.

For one, Curtatone was well-positioned to be the Beacon Hill outsider against those two. It is considered almost axiomatic in modern Massachusetts politics that there are only two paths to the governor’s office: through lieutenant governor or from outside Beacon Hill entirely. Coakley and Grossman are essentially creatures of the Beacon Hill establishment. The three other candidates—Joe Avellone, Don Berwick, and Juliette Kayyem—are all vying for that outsider position.

Curtatone, who is 47, would also have been a generational alternative to the frontrunners. Coakley is 60; Grossman is 67. My quick Wikipedia hunt suggests that the last time the Commonwealth elected a governor past his 60th birthday—even for re-election—was Samuel McCall in 1916. Mitt Romney, at 55, was the oldest first-time electee since Christian Herter in 1952 (and I’d wager that most people thought Romney was in his 40s). Kayyem, 44, is the only under-60 candidate left among the Democrats. (Charlie Baker turns 57 next month, FYI.)

And finally, Curtatone figured to have the support of many municipal leaders across the state—mayors and others who would once have been on Tim Murray’s team, and who have good relationships with Curtatone and would expect him to understand their needs. I don’t see a natural heir to that support, so it will be interesting to see where it goes now.

Curtatone’s decision could solidify this as a two-candidate race for the Democratic nomination. Or, it could open a window for Kayyem to seize the outsider/next-generation mantle. Or it could prompt someone else to jump in—although it would have to be pretty soon, because the crucial party caucuses are coming up in just three months.