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2010 could be dramatic political year in Mass.

Glen Johnson
2010 could be dramatic political year in Mass.
Setti Warren was installed Friday as Newton’s first new chief executive in 12 years – and first African American popularly elected in Massachusetts. (Lolita Parker Jr. Ploto)

When the state’s normally mild-mannered governor predicts the coming campaign year will be replete with “fear mongering,” it’s clear 2010 is shaping up to be a big political one in Massachusetts.

Not only is Gov. Deval Patrick seeking a second term, but three relatively well-known and well-financed challengers are trying to unseat the Democrat.

The death of Edward M. Kennedy has also clarified which high officeholders in Massachusetts are interested in moving up or staying put, and that could contribute to a complete turnover in the state’s six constitutional officers.

It could also lead to a fresh stir in down-ballot races for county offices and state legislative seats.

“2010 is going to be a historic election period for Massachusetts,” said one of the participants, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, as a smile spread across his face during a recent visit to the Statehouse Press Room. “I can’t remember another year like it.”

Patrick, Murray’s boss, is seeking a second term. He’s being challenged by two Republicans, former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care President Charles Baker and convenience store magnate Christy Mihos. State Treasurer Timothy Cahill, formerly a Democrat, is mounting his own campaign as an independent. In a year-end interview with reporters, the governor predicted nastiness.

“There’s gonna be people – because fear is a classic political tool – who will be saying, ‘Well, my goodness gracious, if we stay on this course, you have even more to be fearful of,’” Patrick said. He went on to label such efforts as “fear mongering.”

Baker, Mihos and Cahill all chuckled at the allegation, with a Baker spokesman saying, “The only thing he needs to fear is his own record.”

All three should have the means to air their grievances: Mihos is a multimillionaire, Cahill has several million dollars in his campaign account and Baker has already proven adept at fundraising. Patrick will respond, in part, with an ad blitz financed through a fundraising assist from President Barack Obama.

He was the keynote speaker at a Patrick event this fall, and the president will surely be back next year to solicit a fresh round of donations for his fellow Chicagoan.

Meanwhile, Cahill’s decision to give up the treasurer’s seat after two terms has attracted attention from former Democratic National Committee Chairman Steve Grossman and a second Democrat, Norfolk County Treasurer Joseph Connolly.

Another constitutional officer, Auditor Joseph DeNucci, has decided to retire after 24 years on the job. That prompted Labor Secretary Suzanne Bump to resign from the Patrick administration so she could run. Worcester County Sheriff Guy Glodis is also planning a campaign for the Democratic nomination, while former Massachusetts Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton will seek the Republican nomination.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, a Democrat, is already bombarding the airwaves with public service announcements that have heightened his political profile in advance of a possible run for attorney general.

That office would open if the front-runner to succeed Kennedy in the Senate, Attorney General Martha Coakley, maintains her lead and wins the special election on Jan. 19.

Coakley won the Democratic Senate nomination after beating a field that included U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano. He emerged as the lone congressional candidate after his colleagues decided against giving up their House seniority in a bid to be the No. 100 freshman in the Senate. That revealed many of them will not be moving anytime soon, prompting a variety of other officeholders to gaze lower at other potential slots.

In one example, Glodis’ focus on auditor has prompted two local politicians, Republican Rep. Lewis Evangelidis of Holden and Democratic Governor’s Councilor Thomas Foley of Worcester, to weigh campaigns for county sheriff. Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, and Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, are also considering auditor campaigns, which has spurred jockeying for their state Senate seats.

“It will not only be exciting, but it will be really hard-fought campaign year,” Democratic political consultant Mary Ann Marsh said of 2010. “You can already see the governor becoming more overtly political in his statements and actions, and the fact that you have Baker, Cahill and Mihos all running just for that one office says something right there.”

(Associated Press )