Newton lesson can be Massachusetts win

February 2, 2017

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
While Newton Mayor Setti Warren was visiting Lynn, he met Susan Masiello.

Setti Warren wants to be the second Democrat named Warren to hover like a bright star shining above Massachusetts’ political landscape. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren strode onto the national political stage after beating Republican Scott Brown — and Newton Mayor Warren wants to be the state’s next governor.

He hasn’t announced his candidacy. But the veteran and former Clinton administration official is holding the obligatory conversations to get the word out on his potential run.

He met with the Item’s editorial board on Wednesday after attending a meet-and-greet in Salem and plans to make similar stops over the next four or five months before deciding if he is going to throw his hat into the ring in 2018.

Warren is the full package when it comes to aspirational politicians. He is young and energetic. He served his country enlisting in the Navy after 9/11. He has strong campaign and governing experience and his mayoral track record is an impressive and bold one.

In seeking a second term as mayor in 2013, Warren tied his political fortunes to property-tax- override proposals aimed at giving Newton more revenue to invest in infrastructure. He knew the political risks involved in tying his reelection so closely to the override proposal. But the override passed, Warren got reelected and he intends to duplicate his formula for success if he runs for governor.

Warren backs a proposed millionaire’s tax adding a 4 percent surcharge on the state’s highest wage earners. “This is about asking people really well off to make an investment in the state,” he said.

If Warren runs and becomes the Democratic Party’s choice for governor, it is almost a certainty he will face off in November 2018 against Gov. Charlie Baker.

Warren sets sights on governor’s job

The Swampscott resident and first-term governor enjoys great voter poll ratings and Baker is taking full advantage of that odd Massachusetts political balance formula subscribing to the notion that voters favor a Democrat-controlled state Legislature and — with Deval Patrick as the exception in recent history — a Republican governor.

It doesn’t take a vivid imagination to conjure up an image of Baker licking his chops at the prospect of running against a Democrat unafraid of raising taxes. But the race for governor is two years away and plenty is bound to happen politically over the next two years.

President Trump might follow through with his promise to spend money on rebuilding America’s infrastructure and pour money into Massachusetts. A federal cash infusion would certainly boost Baker’s electability. But the governor is no friend of Donald Trump’s and Trump knows Massachusetts voted solidly for Hillary Clinton.

Warren knows he has an uphill battle to win the governor’s office. But he has some strong assets working in his favor. He is a skilled listener who wants to hear what people have to say. He is also an articulate advocate for rebuilding what he calls Massachusetts’ “abominable” transportation system.

Warren understands why extending the Blue Line to Lynn works economically. He knows the idea makes simple mass-transit common sense. The Baker administration shows no signs of moving on extension proposals regardless of how long the city has lobbied for it — and pulled the plug on a Lynn-to-Boston ferry last summer.

Can Warren — if he runs and wins — replicate his success in Newton on the state stage? The answer is “yes,” if logic and conversation carry the day.