Baker Reshapes Taunton Mayoral Race [OPINION]
The Taunton political scene has been shaken awake from its mid-summer slumber during what was expected to be a sleepy municipal election cycle.
When everyone tuned out for the weekend on Friday, incumbent Mayor Democrat Thomas Hoye had just announced his plans to seek another term. But on Monday, Hoye announced he would be stepping down as mayor by the end of the year to become interim Bristol County Register of Probate. Whoa!
Even more bizarre, within an hour of Hoye's announcement that he had been tapped to fill the position by Republican Governor Charlie Baker came word from Republican State Rep. Shuanna O'Connell that she was running for mayor. All of this happened within hours of the deadline for submitting nomination papers.
No one had taken out papers to challenge the popular Hoye, so all of this made O'Connell the only candidate in the race. This set off a last-minute scramble and several others were able to file papers, including Democrat City Council Estelle Borges, a Democrat who launched a failed bid to unseat O'Connell several years ago.
The Massachusetts Democrat Party, upset that it was almost outfoxed at its own game, raged in protest with party chair Gus Bickford accusing Baker of acting like a "dictator" by attempting to handpick the next mayor of Taunton. The Democrats have employed similar strategies in the past.
I like Shaunna O'Connell. She has been a great state representative and I would be sorry to see her leave. But I also believe she would make a great mayor of Taunton and it would give her the executive experience to someday be a great governor.
Did Baker attempt to influence the mayor's race in Taunton? It would appear that way but hey, as they say, all is fair in love and politics. If true, it would be the gutsiest move Baker has made since becoming governor.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.