Lori Trahan acts as though she doesn’t have a thing to worry about
And maybe the freshman congresswoman from the Lowell-centered 3rd Congressional District is right.
Her potential shadow opponent, Dan Koh of Andover, appears most likely — and smartly — to remain in the shadows and not seek a rematch in 2020.
Koh, the bright and progressive former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, finished second to Trahan in the crowded 2018 Democratic primary to fill the House seat held by Nikki Tsongas, who retired. Following a recount in the hotly contested battle, Trahan bested Koh by 145 votes.
She then went on to easily defeat Republican Rick Green in the November election.
Since then Koh, now an Andover selectman, has conducted a stealth campaign against Trahan, a fellow progressive, based on the thin reed of an alleged campaign spending violation.
Trahan, meanwhile, has busily worked the 37-community district, which runs from Concord and Westford, where Trahan lives, to the New Hampshire border and includes the cities of Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Fitchburg.
The allegation against Trahan is that her campaign failed to timely report the $371,000 she loaned her campaign in the last days of the September primary, a contest in which Koh outspent her by some $2 million. Trahan maintains that she did nothing wrong.
Even if Trahan were found to have committed a campaign violation, the penalty would be something like a five-yard offside penalty in football.
Koh’s position from his pulpit is that if any pending probe “proves she did nothing wrong, I will not run.”
If this is all Koh has to use against Trahan then he might as well stay home, recharge his batteries and wait for another political opportunity, the way John Kerry did in the same district when he was defeated for Congress in 1972.
Kerry wisely did not seek a rematch with Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Cronin, who beat him, understanding that two losses for the same office in a row would have ended his political career. Kerry, biding his time, was elected lieutenant governor 10 years later, then was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and ended up as secretary of state under President Obama. Not bad for a failed Congressional candidate.
It is a career path that Koh might consider following. There could be an opening for a Democrat like Koh to run for governor or lieutenant governor in 2022.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will have been in office for eight years. If Baker does not seek a third term, the GOP gubernatorial candidate could be Polito, who would be a tempting target for some Democrat to take on.
The last time around, Koh had the support of his former boss, Mayor Walsh, who not only raised money for him, but campaigned for him throughout the district. Now Walsh is caught up with his own problems as a couple of his aides are heading to prison in a continuing investigation into his administration by the U.S. attorney. In addition, Walsh is expected to face serious opposition from a minority candidate if he seeks a third term in 2021.
Lori Trahan this time will be too strong for Koh to beat. She has the power of incumbency, for one thing, which manifested itself in a legitimate, taxpayer-funded district-wide mailing last week providing all households in the district with a federal resource guide and a list of her district offices. Naturally it featured her picture.
“Representing you means being a champion for everyday Americans,” she said. She also has around $1 million in campaign cash on hand coupled with the ability to raise more.
She has been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren, Emily’s List and NARAL, the pro-choice organization.
She is home working the district at every opportunity, conducting town halls, touring facilities, meeting with officials. “All the mayors I’ve talked with are concerned with the infrastructure, with roads and bridges. That, among other things, is what we’re working on.”
She shrugged when asked about a challenge from Koh. “He can run if he wants to. But I’m just getting started,” she said.
“I’ve worked very hard, and I will keep working very hard.”
While she has not officially announced her candidacy for re-election, she said, “I will be re-applying for the job and I will fully make the case that I should be hired.”