Mass. Lawyers Weekly, November 14, 2014
Attorney General-elect Maura Healey does not seem to have much chance of becoming governor of Massachusetts. No one should be surprised that Attorney General Martha Coakley was defeated in her recent campaign for governor.
In all of Massachusetts political history, no sitting elected attorney general has ever been elected governor.
Only one former elected attorney general has ever been subsequently elected governor: In 1940, Attorney General Paul A. Dever was defeated in a race for governor by incumbent Gov. Leverett Saltonstall, but after completing his naval service in World War II, Dever was elected governor in 1948.
Attorneys general have been elected only since 1855. In 1852 Attorney General John H. Clifford was elected governor as a Whig. He had prosecuted the Parkman murder case, Commonwealth v. Webster. Clifford got only 45 percent of the vote in a three-way race and, as the law then required, selection was made by the Senate in the event no candidate won a majority. He was elected by that body 29-4.
Clifford and Dever are the only persons to have served as both attorney general and governor of Massachusetts.
Sitting or former attorneys general who ran for governor and lost include Republican J. Weston Allen in 1922 and Democrats Edward J. McCormack in 1966, Robert H. Quinn in 1974, Francis X. Bellotti in 1990, L. Scott Harshbarger in 1998, Thomas Reilly in 2006 and Martha Coakley in 2014. Indeed, only one of the six attorneys general serving since 1970 has not run for governor and lost.
Republican Attorney General George Fingold died while a candidate for governor in 1958.
Brian R. Merrick
District Court Judge (retired)