A juicy little rumor is making the rounds in Democratic circles. There is absolutely no confirmation, and it may simply be a case of wishful thinking on the part of certain Dems. But even so, I’ll invoke Blogger’s Privilege and put it out there.
The rumor: House Speaker Shap Smith might run for lieutenant governor.
At first, I was dubious. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
For those just joining us, Smith launched a bid for governor last summer. But he pulled out in mid-November, citing his wife’s battle with cancer. He also announced he would not run for re-election to the House, which also meant abandoning the Speakership at biennium’s end. However, he left the door just a teensy-weensy bit open.
He told reporters that even if the treatments go well, it was unlikely he would re-enter the race.
“Unlikely.” He didn’t completely dismiss the idea.
All right, here’s where we turn to pure speculation.
At this point, it would be awfully difficult to re-enter the gubernatorial race. The two declared candidates, Sue Minter and Matt Dunne, have several months’ worth of head start in fundraising and organization. They are also unencumbered by day jobs, while Smith has a heavy workload as Speaker.
But lieutenant governor? That wouldn’t be so hard. The fundraising bar is much lower, and he could jumpstart an organization thanks to the presumed support of [most of] the House Democratic caucus. If he were to enter the race, he would instantly be the favorite in the Democratic primary and the general election. (See below.)
Also — and this is crucial for Smith’s personal situation — the job isn’t all that tough. He bangs the gavel in the Senate, he does some soft appearances around the state. He can pretty much set his own schedule.
He’d have a high-profile role at the center of state government. And it’s a great way to build name recognition for a future run at the top job — something Smith would still like to do.
As for Smith instantly becoming the favorite, here’s my reasoning.
The current front-runner, Sen. David Zuckerman, is a P/D with the emphasis on the P, and that’s a negative for many Dem loyalists. I imagine there are a lot of Dems who’d rather not see a Progressive a heartbeat away from the governorship.
The pure-D Democrat in the race, Rep. Kesha Ram, just fired her campaign manager and didn’t replace him. That speaks of difficulties in organization and finance.
It leaves an opening for a high-profile Democrat to swoop in and seize the nomination. And, mirabile dictu, the Smith rumors are circulating in the immediate aftermath of Ram’s campaign shakeup.
Smith would also have little trouble disposing of retread Republican Randy Brock in the general election. Zuckerman would be favored over Brock as well, but Smith would be a sure thing.
This all presupposes that Smith’s wife, Dr. Melissa Volansky, is progressing well enough that he’d be willing to reverse course. If her prognosis is good, then no one would blame Smith for re-entering the political wars.
Or, considering that he is still Mr. Speaker, it might be more accurate to say that he never would have left.
Do I think this is really happening? Eh, not really. It’s more likely a case of wishful thinking among the party faithful. But would I be shocked if he ran? Heck, no.
So, what say you, Dear Reader? Have I gone round the deep end, or does this seem plausible to you?
(By the way, I did try to contact Smith about all of this. I haven’t heard back. If I do, and he says anything on the record, I’ll append it to this post.)