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Message To Moulton: Don’t Run

The other day, The Boston Globe carried a story about a serious young man living in Texas who is considering running for Congress in Massachusetts. Seth Moulton, who claims to be a Democrat but may run as an independent, would oppose Democrat John Tierney who is already being challenged by GOP state senator Richard Tisei. Moulton told WBUR that he will make up his mind this weekend. He obviously has a less-than-burning desire to serve, having waited until about 120 days before the election to hear the call to glory.

Most candidates for high office have some relevant experience. In 2010, Charlie Baker ran for governor after having served only as a selectman. But he had also been Gov. Mitt Romney’s secretary for administration and finance, the highest non-elected job in the State House.

Baker’s loss for governor had little to do with his political experience but had a lot to do with the third candidate in the race, Treasurer Tim Cahill, a Democrat turned opportunistic independent. Cahill’s campaign, assisted by funds from the state lottery’s advertising budget, took enough anti-Deval Patrick votes away from Baker to cost him the governor’s office. This is a lesson for Moulton.

Deval Patrick had never run for anything. Of course, he’d been head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division for President Clinton, a big job with great public responsibilities. He started his initial run for governor a year and a half before the election. He didn’t use a gimmick like masquerading as an independent; he took on and beat two established Democratic opponents and dropped the sitting Lt. Governor.

Another rookie candidate is Elizabeth Warren, who has been teaching at Harvard law school. Previously, however, she served as head the congressional oversight panel charged with finding out where the Bush administration’s bailout money for Wall Street had gone. She later designed the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She understands how the executive and congressional branches work. When she decided to run for senate, she announced a year beforehand that she would compete in the Democratic primary. Her strength as a candidate drove six Democrats from the race.

Obviously, the Globe believed Moulton’s three degrees from what Globe columnist Alex Beam likes to call WGU, for World’s Greatest University, made him instantly credible. His service as a Marine in Iraq is likewise commendable. But what stands out is his timing. Moulton lives in Texas and chose not to run here in the normal way. If he files 2,000 verified signatures by July 31, he’ll be on the November ballot.

While he surely had Tierney’s wife’s legal problems in mind when he went public with his contemplation, he refused to discuss Tierney, or his family. He said he began speaking to friends and colleagues about the idea just a few days ago. “It’s an opportunity that came completely out of the blue,” he said. What opportunity?

Full disclosure: I was a consultant to Tierney in 1990 in his first congressional victory but have not worked for him since. John can make his own case on his voting record and why he should return to Congress.

Moulton can’t say he didn’t know about Tierney’s family problems. They were made public in 2010. The only thing new was that Tierney’s criminal brothers-in-law claimed Tierney knew they were crooks. Would you take the word of a convicted felon right after he got sentenced? Republican Tisei did. Does Moulton?

Calling himself “a fairly centrist guy,” Moulton lacks a motivating philosophy or critique of Tierney. He sees this as a chance to crash the party and begin a career as a politician. But he’s playing with nitroglycerin. He’s not going to win.

He told WBUR's Fred Thys that he may run because Tierney might lose the seat. His running will cost Tierney the seat. If he does well enough to elect a Republican to Congress, he will never be forgiven by Democratic party activists here and in Washington. His future in Massachusetts politics will be slightly less than squadouche.

I don’t have a beef with independents. I’m working for one in Maine, Angus King, who’s running for the U.S. senate seat Olympia Snowe is leaving. He’s been an independent since 1993, when he ran for and won the governorship. His independence is who he is, not a cloak he’s wearing to collect votes or burnish he political resume. If Moulton is committed to politics as an independent, he should spend some time in Maine. I’ll give him the number.

This program aired on July 14, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Dan Payne Twitter Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.

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