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Mass. Political News - Covering campaign 2014 in Massachusetts
  • Candidates see Lt. Gov. seat as flexible opportunity to shine

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  • It’s been more than a year since the state has had a lieutenant governor, but, odds are, the empty seat hasn’t caused much discussion at the average dinner table.
    When Timothy Murray resigned from the post last May, Gov. Deval Patrick said he didn’t expect his administration to slow down, and the actual effect of Murray’s absence has always played second fiddle to speculation about why he left.
    So, as the pending governor’s race dominates the headlines heading into this weekend’s Democratic State Convention, candidates for lieutenant governor have found themselves touting the job itself along with their qualifications.
    "Folks miss having that extra connection (to the corner office)," candidate Steve Kerrigan told MassPoliticalNews.com. "Tim was a huge asset."
    Kerrigan, who penned an editorial to The Boston Globe last June titled "The case for a lieutenant governor," was a longtime aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy and served as CEO of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
    He and the other three candidates – Mike Lake, James Arena-DeRosa and Leland Cheung – told MassPoliticalNews.com they see the position as integral to the long-term success of the state.
    "I see it as an almost limitless opportunity," said Lake, President and CEO of Leading Cities, a Boston-based public policy group. "It’s an office that has the flexibility to meet the needs of its times."
    While the governor has a number of constitutional duties and must always be mindful of the political stories of the day, the lieutenant governor’s duties are far less defined. In fact, five states don’t even have lieutenant governors, and Massachusetts, as highlighted by Murray’s departure, has no mechanism in its constitution to replace one who leaves mid-term.
    Arena-DeRosa, former head of the USDA’s Northeast Region, said the office "affords the opportunity to think a bit into the future.
    "It’s basically what you make of it," he said, a flexibility he believes is intriguing.
    "Being bound only by your own creativity and hard work is really exciting," echoed fellow candidate and Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung.
    All four candidates said the import of the position is one often not seen by the general public.
    "The lieutenant governor is the potential CEO of Massachusetts," said Arena-DeRosa. Among the most important functions, candidates said, is keeping local mayors and politicians plugged in to the State House, as well as working to promote the state as a hub of commerce and education worldwide.
    "The lieutenant governor is an advocate," said Lake, not just for the governor, but also for the specific causes he or she chooses to champion.
    Lake’s platform, called the "Massachusetts Promise," focuses on raising the minimum wage, improving education and ensuring safe neighborhoods.
    Page 2 of 3 - Arena-DeRosa is pitching the "Renewed Deal" – a pledge to review government policy to construct a "fairer compact between state government, its cities and towns, workers and small businesses and all citizens."
    Cheung says he wants to "double down" on investments Patrick has made in education, infrastructure, and the innovation economy.
    Kerrigan also said he’d like to build on Patrick’s success, and stressed a desire to make government more responsive to the public as well as take a second look at outdated or failed policies.
    Asked what set them apart in the race, all four candidates said experience.
    "This is not a vanity exercise for me," said Kerrigan, saying he believes he clearly has the most relevant experience for the job.
    Kerrigan was recently co-chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a position President Barack Obama asked him to fill after he served for two years as CEO for the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee.
    Kerrigan also serves as President of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, a private non-profit organization that provides support to families of soldiers who have died since 9/11.
    Arena-DeRosa, in addition to managing a $12 billion budget with the USDA, has served as the director of the director of the Peace Corps in New England. Before that, he served as director of public advocacy at the anti-poverty organization Oxfam America.
    "The thing that sets me apart in this race is extraordinary executive experience in government," he said. "I have the instincts to identify where we can cross collaborate (between departments)."
    Cheung admittedly hasn’t served in as many high-profile roles as the other candidates, but says he believes his close work with the Cambridge community puts him in a position to be a true advocate of everyday people.
    "I’ve earned a reputation as one of the most progressive and responsive members of the Cambridge City Council," he said.
    Cheung makes it a point to list his cell phone number on his website – a practice he said would continue if elected lieutenant governor.
    Lake, former special assistant for White House operations to President Bill Clinton, has served as director of development for United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.
    "I come to that table with ideas, with solutions, with experience," he said," noting he’s been endorsed by former Gov. Michael Dukakis.
    So far, Kerrigan boasts the highest number of endorsements, including support from nine mayors and four sheriffs. He hopes to lead the pack this weekend at the convention, an event that could spell the end of the line for one or two candidates.
    Like governor’s candidates, each lieutenant governor candidate must garner at least 15 percent of votes from delegates in order to appear on the ballot for the September primary.
    Page 3 of 3 - With roughly 5,500 total possible votes, each candidate, then, will need to garner in the neighborhood of 820 votes to stay in the race. The candidate who gets the most votes will receive the official party endorsement.
    On the Republican side, former state Rep. Karyn Polito is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker.
    Brad Petrishen writes for MassPoliticalNews.com and the MetroWest Daily News. To follow the vote as it happens on Saturday, follow him on Twitter @BPetrishen_MWDN and @MassPoliNews.

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