To outsiders looking to make a splash in Massachusetts politics, Deval Patrick and Elizabeth Warren are guiding lights. Each ascended as political novices from relative unknown to statewide officeholders, winning in their first run for office. Observers of (and candidates in) the current gubernatorial contest have pointed to their examples to explore whether other newcomers have a potential path to victory. But the polling suggests that comparisons between Patrick and Warren and the current crop of gubernatorial hopefuls is weak and getting weaker. If any of the three lesser-known candidates for governor win in November, they will have blazed a new trail rather than followed either Warren or Patrick’s path.
By this point in their first election cycles, 35 percent had formed an opinion (favorable or unfavorable) of Deval Patrick, and 63 percent had made up their minds about Elizabeth Warren. Warren had cleared the field of a number of possible challengers, and was on her way to locking up 96 percent of the convention vote in June. Patrick had just taken a lead in the Democratic Primary polls over Tom Reilly, a lead which he would soon make permanent. Compare this to the three longer-shot Democrats this year — Juliette Kayyem, Don Berwick and Joe Avellone — each of whom is struggling to break out of the single digits in name recognition, and each of whom pulls between 1 and 4 points in polls of Democratic Primary voters.
In fairness to all three, the struggle for name recognition is a hard one in Massachusetts this year, and challengers across the board have yet to crack the code. Republican challengers to Ed Markey, challengers in both parties in the 6th Congressional district, and lesser known gubernatorial candidates on both sides have all struggled to build awareness.
It’s still early, with even the primary still months away. Any of the lesser known Democrats could still break out. But if they do, they will not be repeating recent history; they will be making their own.