Monday, January 31, 2011

How Lisa Wong became a Senate contender without even trying

A recent news item on Swing State Project, a well-respected and widely read liberal election blog, included this little note that could shake up the political landscape in Central Mass:
We've already seen the mayors of some of Massachusetts's cities cited as potential [U.S. Senate] candidates (especially Newton's Setti Warren), but here's another one to keep in mind: Salem mayor Kim Driscoll, who has been asking around about the race. Two other mayors get cited in the piece as additional down-in-the-weeds possibilities for the Dems: New Bedford's Scott Lang and Fitchburg's Lisa Wong.
If that seems like news to you, you’re not alone. hasn’t heard even the slightest buzz about a Mayor Wong challenge to Senator Scott Brown (R-Wrentham). In searching the internet, the story of Wong’s potential candidacy is a fascinating example of how one public appearance can turn into a potential campaign in a few short months, without comment from Wong (or any source at all, for that matter).

The saga began innocuously enough as Mayor Wong appeared on CNN on October 12, 2010 to talk about programs in Fitchburg to better engage the minority and immigrant community in civic affairs.

While the brief interview did not touch on any possible future campaigns and did not even mention Senator Brown, it did catch the eye of reporter Matt Murphy of the State House News Service. In an October 29 article examining the possibility that Newton Mayor Setti Warren may be a challenger for Brown’s Senate seat, Wong is mentioned as one of a handful of young Massachusetts mayors
As a young mayor with experience at both the national and local levels and a military background that could offset Brown's own service record, Warren could be an attractive candidate to many voters looking for new blood, sources told the News Service, explaining the rationale for a possible Warren candidacy

Some put him in the category of several promising young Massachusetts mayors, including Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong and Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan, both of whom voters could have spotted giving national interviews on CNN in recent weeks.

"It's all about who can raise the money," said one Democratic official who agreed to speak anonymously, and acknowledged the chatter around Warren. "He could probably raise national money by tapping into the national veterans groups and African-American donors. Look at what [U.S. Rep. Joseph] Sestak and Patrick Murphy have done."
While one could infer that Wong and Flanagan were potential Senate candidates (and Flanagan subsequently confirmed his interest), Murphy does not compare Warren to Wong and Flanagan as prospective candidates, but as mayors with similar pedigrees.

The potential Wong candidacy first went national just before Christmas. Writing for the National Journal, Jim O’Sullivan, formerly a colleague of Murphy’s at the State House News Service, named Wong in a list of potential contenders that included Warren and a legion of others:
In a state with a relative dearth of prominent female politicos, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is eyed as an ascendant pol, and has had conversations about a potential run at Brown.

“I’m certainly always intrigued by these ideas, but I like what I’m doing right now a lot,” she told National Journal Tuesday. “I don’t think I have itchy feet, but I definitely think that having the local perspective would be great.”

Another young mayor, Newton’s Setti Warren, an Iraqi War veteran and former Kerry aide, has drawn attention. Patrick’s outgoing energy and environment chief, Ian Bowles, lost a race for Congress in 1996 and distinguished himself in Patrick’s Cabinet as its least press-averse inhabitant. Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong won statewide visibility with her 2007 election as the state’s first female Asian-American mayor. New Bedford's Scott Lang is one of the most active municipal CEOs in the state, and politically attuned enough to have won favor with some Patrick advisers.
The interview with Driscoll caught the eye of the Salem News’ Chris Cassidy, and three weeks later he included Wong in a “list of potential 2012 Democratic challengers:”
The [National Journal] story lists Congressmen Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch and Edward Markey among the most likely challengers and goes on to mention lesser-known Bay State Dems, including former AG Scott Harshbarger and fellow mayors Setti Warren of Newton, Lisa Wong of Fitchburg and Scott Lang of New Bedford.
It was this news item that caught the attention of Swing State Project and put talk of a potential Wong Senate campaign back into national view. Note that nowhere along the line has a reporter actually received a comment from Wong on a potential candidacy. In fact, there is no mention of any source whatsoever pegging Wong as having interest in a Senate run.

Despite all of the speculation, there is currently only one declared Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Bob Massie (D-Somerville).

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