Open Guv’s Council Seat Quickly Draws Springfield Candidates

Fenton, Morneau Enter Race After Hurley Announces Plan

Within a day of Mary Hurley’s decision not to seek a fourth term on the Governor’s Council, the open race has drawn two candidates — a Springfield city councilor, and a Springfield lawyer who ran against Hurley the last time the seat was incumbent-free.

Hampden County Bar Foundation President Jeffrey Morneau lost to Hurley by a 16-percentage point margin in 2016 after Councilor Michael Albano shifted gears to run for county sheriff. Jumping into the race Tuesday less than three hours after Hurley stepped back, Morneau said that he had been waiting to learn of her plans.

“Mary has been serving our community well as Governor’s Councillor and she had earned the right to continue doing so if she so chose,” he wrote in his campaign announcement.

Springfield City Councilor Michael Fenton announced his candidacy Wednesday, calling the eight-member Governor’s Council “probably the least known elected position in Massachusetts government” but “also one of the most consequential.”

The council in the past has caught the public’s attention with occasional raucous meetings and inflamed internal spats, which have sometimes overshadowed the panel’s work vetting judicial candidates and taking final votes on whether to mint new judges and Parole Board members.

“I understand the importance of maintaining the integrity and transparency of the judicial selection process,” Morneau wrote, noting he has served on the Joint Bar Committee and participated in nominee hearings in western Massachusetts.

Fenton said he would focus on “proper temperament and background” of nominees, adding he would look for their “experience to do the job” and “the humility and understanding to work with people.”

As councilor for western Massachusetts, Hurley — a former Springfield mayor and retired judge — urged the administration to fill vacancies in the western courts, where she saw a disproportionate shortage of black robes.

Morneau wrote in his campaign announcement that he would look to make sure western vacancies “are filled quickly with the most competent and qualified lawyers from local communities.”

Fenton said he wants to focus on “regional inequities” in western Massachusetts not just limited to the judiciary.

“We are the least funded area of the state by almost every measure. I see the Governor’s Council role as an opportunity to fight for equitable treatment here in Western Massachusetts — that means advocating for the appointment of Western Massachusetts residents, and fighting for funding in our region more broadly,” he wrote.

First elected to the City Council in 2009, when he was 22 years old, Fenton is now sitting on around $35,700 in campaign funds.

Morneau’s last run in 2016 drew around $65,000 in donations, not counting $10,000 he loaned to his own campaign. His campaign fund still held a balance of around $3,000 until 2020, when the funds were escheated to the state.

Morneau grew up in Holyoke, as did current Governor’s Councilor Robert Jubinville of Milton. He lives in East Longmeadow, where Councilor Hurley also resides.

A past president of the Hampden County Bar Association, Morneau is a founding partner of Springfield firm Connor & Morneau, LLP, where he specializes in litigation related to overtime and minimum wage, discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, unemployment, and consumer protection. He currently leads the Hampden County Bar Foundation, which supports the bar association’s pro bono legal clinic.

Fenton was president of the Springfield City Council from 2014 to 2016 and is a past member of the state Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Consumption Committee, according to his law firm website. He is a partner at Shatz, Schwartz, and Fentin, P.C., where he practices in the areas of business organizations, commercial and tax-exempt finance, elder law, estate planning, exit planning for business owners, nonprofits, real estate and land use.

Both candidates attended Providence College for their undergraduate degrees and earned their juris doctors from Western New England University School of Law. Morneau also holds a master of laws from Georgetown, and Fenton also earned an MBA from Western New England.

A tennis player at Providence, Morneau was “ranked number one in the country in platform tennis” and is now a member of the college’s Athletic Hall of Fame, according to his firm’s website. Fenton was publishing editor of the Law Review at Western New England.

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