EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 3, 2013

Column: Massachusetts governors tend to be restless

Although the upcoming special election to fill John Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat is currently getting all of the attention, there is another important election coming on the heels of that. In 2014, residents of Massachusetts will be electing a new governor. With incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick already stating that he will not seek a third term, some early jockeying has begun. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray is out, business executive Joseph Avellone is in, and State Treasurer Steve Grossman seems to be taking a serious look.

While one certainly cannot fault ambition, it is a curious fact that more than a few of our governors have chosen to either resign (in all but one case to seek appointed office) or retire (in all but one case to seek elected office). Since the Massachusetts state constitution was adopted in 1780, a total of 71 people have been elected governor, starting with John Hancock up to Deval Patrick.

Out of the 71, six (about 9 percent) resigned and seven (10 percent) retired to pursue something else. This represents a total of 13 governors, which accounts for 18 percent or almost one out of every five governors!

Amazingly, it all began with our very first governor, John Hancock, who resigned in 1785. He actually resigned due to illness, while the following five resignations occurred in order to seek appointed office: John Davis became a U.S. senator in 1835; William Washburn became a U.S. senator in 1874; John Volpe became U.S. Secretary of Transportation in 1969; William Weld was nominated but not confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1997; and Paul Cellucci became U.S. ambassador to Canada in 2001. It should be noted that prior to 1914, U.S. senators were not popularly elected but rather appointed by state legislatures.

Those governors who chose to retire in order to pursue something else include the following: Nathaniel Prentice Banks, who sought the 1860 Republican presidential nomination (losing out to Abraham Lincoln); Calvin Coolidge, who ran successfully for vice president on the GOP ticket with Warren Harding in 1920; James Michael Curley, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. senator in 1936; Leverett Saltonstall, who ran successfully for U.S. senator in 1944; Christian Herter, who soon after retirement was appointed U.S. undersecretary of state in early 1957 and then secretary of state in 1959; Foster Furcolo, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. senator in 1960; and Mitt Romney, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

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