Editorial: Secretary Walsh? It's a real possibility

Our mayor, Martin J. Walsh, is on the super short-list of potential picks for Secretary of Labor in the Biden-Harris administration. The job would be very hard to pass up. Sources familiar with the mayor’s thinking about it say he is likely to accept the position if it’s offered.

Last week, Politico published a story that floated Walsh as Biden’s personal favorite for the Labor post— “he definitely wants Marty Walsh,” one unnamed source told the news site, adding that many prominent national union officials have been lobbying on behalf of their union brother.

But the Politico piece also threw up a big caution flag: Walsh’s whiteness, which could prove a liability depending on how Biden and Harris round out the rest of their cabinet. Politico posited that if Walsh is the eventual choice, he may be among Biden’s final appointments, probably much closer to the Jan. 20 inauguration date.

The timing and circumstances— from this perch— would seem to favor a Walsh appointment. The mayor is one of the most high-profile municipal leaders in America. He is the subject of a four-hour Frederick Wiseman documentary that is highly favorable and streaming on demand not only here in Boston and New England, but also nationally. The mayor has also been a frequent guest on national news programs in the context of the coronavirus crisis and has acquitted himself very well on the bigger stage. And, of course, Biden, who presided at Walsh’s last swearing-in, does seem to have a genuine fondness for the Dorchester Democrat.

And, while it’s still possible that other leading Massachusetts political figures will get recruited into roles on the Biden-Harris team, so far it has been just John Kerry, the former senator and Secretary of State, who has heard his 617-cell buzz for a new role: Special Envoy for Climate.

Of course, there’s the question of whether the mayor would accept a post. It depends on whom you ask these days. Rep. Russell Holmes, who this week withdrew his own name from a contest to replace outgoing Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo, doesn’t think Walsh will leave for D.C. in any event.

“I still fall in the camp that I don’t think he’s leaving,” Holmes told the Reporter’s Katie Trojano this week. “When I’ve talked to him, it still seems like he wants to finish the Long Island Bridge, do something about Mass and Cass, and I just know there are some things that, leaving the city, he would feel he would be leaving undone,” Holmes said this week. “I really do believe that [he] is here for another four years.”

The representative from Mattapan added that he himself has “no desire to run for mayor anytime soon.”

Staying in Boston would require Walsh to defeat two strong challengers in City Councillors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell, at least one of them in head-to-head fashion, in next year’s election.

Councillor Annissa-Essaibi-George, who could very well be a candidate for mayor herself in 2021 if Walsh does not run again, said this week that the pace of the mayor’s race — so far—has been extra sluggish due to Covid restrictions.

But, she noted, it’s also difficult to gain traction on a well-funded, popular, and incumbent mayor who has earned strong marks for managing the city, particularly through the hellscape of 2020. As she puts it: “The mayor doesn’t get nearly enough credit for making some very difficult decisions under very difficult circumstances.”

For his part, the mayor declined comment when we sought his take on a potential move to the nation’s capital. The next week or so should tell the story.

- Bill Forry