In a city where politics is a blood sport, shaping a candidate’s public persona can be big business. Candidates spent hundreds of thousands of dollars last year on the guys — and they’re almost always guys — who worked behind the scenes as strategists, juggling media calls and developing advertisements and campaign themes.

The ground has shifted yet again for Boston’s public affairs firms, with a wave of newcomers on Beacon Hill and in Washington. The time between election cycles is when strategists build their roster of private-sector clients. Political races can pay off months after an election: A surprising, come-from-behind win creates positive exposure and gets people talking. If the victor is a high-profile position such as governor or attorney general, corporate clients come knocking, hoping to buy a direct line to the new bosses or at least an understanding of how they think.

In elections, it’s almost impossible to claim a perfect batting average. Consultants typically get more credit than they merit for a win and more blame than they deserve for a loss. But political power is often shaped by perception — and the perception of a public affairs firm’s power is often solidified by how its candidates perform. Within that world, Boston’s strategists are figuring out how to capitalize on their successes or move on from their defeats.

Goldman Associates: Political veteran Michael Goldman’s most important recent victory took place in 2013, when Martin J. Walsh emerged victorious from a crowded field for mayor of Boston. He remains involved as a Walsh adviser. But Goldman hasn’t been coasting on his close ties with the mayor. He worked to help two successful statewide candidates last year: Attorney General Maura Healey and Auditor Suzanne Bump. Nearly all of his revenue now comes from private-sector clients, such as insurance brokerage William Gallagher Associates and the New England Aquarium. But his recent successes in the electoral arena show that this fixture of Boston’s political landscape hasn’t yet walked away.

Jon Chesto
Published Date: 
Wednesday, February 4, 2015