Billy Galvin should run for governor.
Not only is Billy Galvin, 63, who is the secretary of state, the most politically experienced of all the candidates running, he also has been acting governor more than anyone else.
It is time we had a governor named Billy.
His official name, of course, is William Francis Galvin, but he has been known as Billy forever. Billy has been a Statehouse fixture for more than 40 years- -- first as an aide to the Governor's Council, then as a state representative from Brighton, and now secretary of state, a post he has held since he was elected to it in 1994.
There is not much about state government or state and municipal elections that Billy does not know. He has probably forgotten more about state government and politics than most governors know. A pin does not drop at the Statehouse without Billy not only hearing it, but also knowing who dropped it.
He has been nicknamed the "Prince of Darkness" because of his ways as a political loner who throws casual conversations around like manhole covers. If he stops to talk, you fear he is going to pull out a subpoena. As Seth Gitell wrote in the Boston Phoenix a while back, the mysterious Billy is "an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a Democrat."
Still, if he were the Democratic Party nominee for governor, Billy would be running against Republican Charlie Baker. In that case the contest would be between a Billy and a Charlie. How neat is that?
Ordinarily the role of filling in for the governor when he is out of state goes to the lieutenant governor. But since the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, now head of the Greater Worcester Chamber of Commerce, the office has been vacant. So Billy has filled the role.
Billy Galvin, constitutionally the third in the line of succession, has regularly assumed the role of acting governor during the absences -- and there have been many -- of Gov. Deval Patrick, who has decided to see the world before leaving office at the end of 2014.
Billy filled in for Patrick during the governor's recent 10-day trade mission to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. That was when the region was hit with back-to-back snowstorms, the second of which snarled up traffic during Tuesday's evening commute.
Billy did not take command of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) bunker in Framingham to manage the state's response to the storm, however. Usually Gov. Patrick dresses up in L.L Bean storm-fighting gear and appears on television from the bunker to announce shelter locations, how many inches fell and how many snow plows are on the roads.
Billy, as acting governor, could have done the same, but did not. Billy, a lifelong resident of Boston, has no fancy winter snowstorm gear, but has only a dark blue suit, a white shirt and a red tie.
So instead he merely announced from his warm Statehouse office that all nonessential state workers (which means almost everybody) could go home early to ease the commuter rush. Needless to say this endeared him to all state workers and is worth at least 5 percentage points in the polls.
Besides, Billy does not need winter storm television coverage. Being the wily public official that he is, Billy can be on television any time he wants through the PSAs that he produces. He is the king of PSAs. These are the public service announcements that the television stations run for free. They show Billy talking about such things as voter registration and domestic violence.
What, you may ask, does the secretary of state have to do with domestic violence? Not much, except Billy can provide victims with safe and secure addresses through his Safe Address Program. That is something that not even Attorney General Martha Coakley can do. And these PSAs are on television so often that people think Billy is the attorney general anyway.
What does all of this have to do with the race governor that is shaping up for 2014? Not much. Billy is not running for governor.
But it does point out that the race for governor has not exactly been a barn-burner.
Veteran political observers thought that with Patrick not running for re-election. the fight to replace him would be a fiery one. So far, even with nine candidates running -- two Republicans, two independents and five Democrats -- the contest has been a snoozer.
We need an acting governor. We need a Billy in the fight.
Peter Lucas' political column appears Tuesday and Friday. Email him at email@example.com.