I had a reaction to something as I was watching the early jockeying for the Congressional seat serving Newton. Please feel free to tell me if you think I’m off base or if you agree in whole or in part.
I understand that incumbent elected officials are expected to stay in their jobs as they run for re-election. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t even have a problem when a state official, like the Attorney General, stays in their job while they run for Governor. At least the territory they hope to serve stays the same, and so they end up campaigning throughout their current jurisdiction and maintaining close contact with their constituents.
But it feels different to me when a state elected official stays in their job when they choose to run for a federal job, crossing jurisdictions, as it were. The first time I felt this way was when Mike Dukakis was governor and ran for president. I thought he should resign his state job and devote his energy to the campaign. I believed it would be better for the Commonwealth, in that he wouldn’t be torn between his duty of loyalty and care to the state job and the pressures of the presidential campaign.
Which brings us to the 2020 federal elections. The state treasurer, Deb Goldberg, has all but announced that she is running for the Congressional seat being vacated by Joseph Kennedy, III as he tries to win a US Senate seat. Goldberg’s term as state treasurer runs through early 2023, and I’m guessing that she will choose to stay in that job while she runs for Congress.
I don’t see how a person can run for Congress–raising at least $2 million in campaign funds, focusing intensely on grass roots events across a very spread-out Congressional district (see map), and engaging in debates—and still deliver on their duty of loyalty and care to the full-time job they were elected to by the entire Commonwealth.
Her website outlines those responsibilities:
Treasurer Deb Goldberg is responsible for running a large organization with approximately 800 employees, overseeing fourteen diverse departments and agencies within Massachusetts state government.
As Treasurer, Deb’s goal is to ensure economic stability, economic security, and economic opportunity for every Massachusetts resident.
The Treasurer’s office maintains the state’s daily cash flows, manages bonding and debt, regulates the sale and use of alcoholic beverages, provides funding to improve water quality and infrastructure, protects and returns unclaimed property to Massachusetts citizens, provides financial literacy education and veterans benefits, while also helping Massachusetts employees save for a secure retirement.
The Treasurer is also responsible for overseeing the Massachusetts State Lottery, and chairing both the Massachusetts School Building Authority and the Pension Reserves Investment Trust Fund, which represents the $72 billion pension fund for state employees, teachers and retirees.
Look, I know the Treasurer doesn’t do all that stuff herself. She has staff to whom most of the work is delegated. But she does have ultimate authority and responsibility for this work for all 6 million people in the state. Can she do that job thoroughly while she’s focused over the next year on the 700 thousand folks in the 4th Congressional District? Maybe some reporter can ask her that question when she does formally announce her candidacy.
[By the way, I also think it hurts someone’s candidacy in voters’ eyes when they renege on their promise of four years in office to fulfill their ambition of “moving up.” (Remember Setti?) But my comments today aren’t directed at the impact on their electability.]
I welcome your thoughts.