BOSTON (SHNS) – Former lieutenant governor nominee Steve Kerrigan cruised to the top post at the Massachusetts Democratic Party with no opposition Monday night.
A majority of the party’s state committee members elected Kerrigan as the next party chair on a voice vote, according to a spokesperson. He was the only nominee and ran with support from top power players including Gov. Maura Healey.
Kerrigan succeeds Gus Bickford, who stepped down after a more than six-year tenure as party chair that saw Democrats expand their supermajorities in both legislative chambers.
In a statement, Kerrigan called his new role “the honor of a lifetime.”
“I inherit a strong foundation thanks to Gus Bickford’s terrific leadership. Senator Kennedy always reminded us that you never rest on your laurels. You can always get better,” Kerrigan said. “My goal is to make the Massachusetts Democratic Party the gold standard for state parties across the country. We will do that by harnessing the tremendous energy at our grassroots, by representing all our people and being accessible to all, and by building an infrastructure that elects and supports Democratic leaders up and down the ballot. I cannot wait to get to work.”
Kerrigan, a veteran party operative who is currently CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, previously worked for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. He ran the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After an unsuccessful bid for state rep in 2008, he earned the party’s nomination as lieutenant governor in 2014, running alongside Martha Coakley in an unsuccessful bid against Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. In 2017, he jumped into a crowded race for an open Merrimack Valley congressional seat but ended his campaign before the primary, which was eventually won by Congresswoman Lori Trahan.
When Bickford was first elected in 2016, he defeated Kerrigan in a tight race that went to a second ballot.
“I want to extend my deepest thanks to Gus Bickford for all he has done for Democrats across Massachusetts as Chairperson. The strength of our Party today is due, in no small part, to his steadfast leadership,” Healey said in a statement. “I also am excited for the future of the Massachusetts Democratic Party under the leadership of Steve Kerrigan. Steve is smart, collaborative, and knows what it takes to build successful campaigns. I look forward to the work ahead and to partnering with Steve to show how Democrats get results that matter in people’s lives.”
Party officials praised Bickford’s success as chair, saying that during his run Democrats flipped more than a dozen legislative seats previously held by Republicans, won the governorship and held onto all incumbent statewide offices.
In that span, Democrats were victorious in 81 open-seat contests where the previous office-holder was a Democrat, compared to just five Republican wins to hold open seats formerly represented by a GOP incumbent, according to MassDems. In many of those races, Republicans did not field any candidates.
“I can only hope his tenure will be as rewarding as the past six years have been for me,” Bickford said in a statement. “Leading our Party has been the honor of my professional life. We have fought with conviction for the priorities that we hold dear as a Party and have ushered in a new generation of leadership that better reflects our communities and our values. Our Party has made history together and for that, I will be eternally grateful.”
Both major state political parties have made leadership changes this year, which is Healey’s first in the corner office. On a narrow 37-34 vote, Republicans in January tossed former Chair Jim Lyons and instead installed Amy Carnevale to guide their efforts of winning back voters and regaining more of a foothold on Beacon Hill.