BOSTON — In Marty Walsh’s Boston, local punk bands remix songs in his name, formal rivals become his closest allies and his romantic life becomes front-page tabloid fodder.
It’s about to become Marty Walsh’s Boston. The Dorchester state representative is the mayor-elect of the capital city and everything from his choice of vacation destination to whether he’ll pop the question to longtime girlfriend Lorrie Higgins is a matter of intense speculation.
Walsh, a former labor leader, defeated City Councilor John Connolly in Tuesday’s tight election, riding a swell of labor support and backing from one-time opponents who helped him build coalitions in Boston’s diverse neighborhoods.
Before leaving Friday on a well-deserved vacation (Turks and Caicos?), Walsh announced the early makings of a transition team that included preliminary election competitors City Councilor Felix Arroyo, Charlotte Golar Richie and John Barros, along with Joyce Linehan, the policy director for his mayoral campaign, Katherine Craven of the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, and Sam Tyler of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.
Wonder what it’s like to be Marty Walsh these days? Well, another Marty Walsh, this one a political consultant and former Ted Kennedy aide, got a taste on election night when his phone rang and Vice President Joe Biden was on the other end: “You son of gun, Marty. You did it,” Biden boomed. Wrong Marty, Mr. Vice President. Ironically, it was Biden’s gaffe that helped spread the word nationwide of Walsh’s election.
Walsh made his triumphant return to Beacon Hill Wednesday for a House debate on welfare reform where he received a hero’s welcome, embraced by his colleagues and the same House speaker he sided against during a bitter leadership battle more than four years ago.
“You have tested my patience at times – many times,” joked Speaker Robert DeLeo, who long ago buried the hatchet with Walsh and has come to see him as a valued and loyal part of his team.
The celebrations, however, did have to end at some point, and in the House that meant leadership had to go to work to quell the roused liberal caucus unhappy with provisions in Ways and Means Chair Rep. Brian Dempsey’s welfare-to-work bill. After about four hours of close door negotiations, the House made some changes to enhance education opportunities and protect the disabled from new work requirements before unanimously passing the bill.
Even some Republican amendments made it into the final product, including a Minority Leader Brad Jones proposal to require a plan to move to a cashless welfare benefits system in the coming years.
Walsh’s rise from the streets of Savin Hill to the fifth floor of City Hall marked the peak so far of a Golden Age for his Dorchester neighborhood, now home to not just the mayor-elect, but state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, who toppled Southie’s grasp on the seat earlier this year. Even Senate President Therese Murray, now of Plymouth, has been wearing her Dorchester roots proudly these days, embracing Forry on stage at Walsh’s victory party to declare the pair with Irish and Haitian roots the “face” of Dorchester.
While much ink was spilled over the outsized influence that outside union money may have played in Walsh’s mayoral victory, cash had little impact on a referendum in East Boston where casino foes were able to stand up to gaming interests and handily defeat a proposed casino at Suffolk Downs.
The shocker in Eastie, coupled with Palmer’s narrow defeat by less than 100 votes of a proposed Mohegan Sun casino for the western part of the state, turned the gambling landscape in Massachusetts on its head and sent Suffolk Downs owners scrambling to see if they could refashion their bid with a Revere-only project.
Revere voters, in contrast to their East Boston counterparts, welcomed a casino at the polls Tuesday night, and Mayor Dan Rizzo and state Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) said they would love to see the project shifted entirely into Revere if possible.
One major obstacle to that idea is time. Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said he’d be happy to listen to alternatives from Suffolk Downs, but said the Dec. 31 deadline for site-specific applications is firm, and there’s still little clarity over whether the casino plans can be redrafted to avoid having to negotiate a new host community agreement with Revere and put it before the voters a second time.
The casino defeats weren’t the only surprises on election day this week, with controversial Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer and Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti all losing re-election by slim margins that could, along with the Palmer casino vote, require recounts. Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette also lost.
Rep. Marcos Devers, who succeed Lantigua in the House, was hoarse with jubilation Wednesday morning. “He was a disaster,” Devers said of Lantigua. “And you’re going to be seeing better things.”
State Rep. Donald Humason, a Westfield Republican, defeated Holyoke City Councilor David Bartley, son of the former House speaker, in a critical special election hold for the GOP that not only ensured the party ranks will remain at four in the 40-member Senate, but showed the party can still win seats within its grasp.
The East Boston vote made for a bittersweet week for Speaker DeLeo, who holds a special place in his heart for the horse track that his father once worked at. As the hopes for a Suffolk Downs casino cascaded over the edge, DeLeo relished in the news that Facebook would be opening an engineering office in Cambridge’s Kendall Square.
Eighteen short months ago, DeLeo wrote a letter published on the Menlo Park, California Patch website urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to return to his roots and bring his tech giant, and the jobs that come with it, back to Boston.
The announcement from Facebook that they would open an office across the river prompted DeLeo, himself a bit of a technophobe, to create his own Facebook page, complete with a photo of him in front of a Revere beach sandcastle fashioned to look like Fenway Park. Just don’t expect the speaker to be “liking” your status update anytime soon. “Whatever they do. It’s very embarrassing for me to say that. But I still want them to invest here,” DeLeo said, gesturing to his staff when asked if he had spent time on the popular social networking site.
Former Sen. Warren Tolman got off the fence and off the bench this week as he looks to put his last two statewide losses behind him and challenge for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.
Tolman, who was the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 1998 and ran as a “clean elections” candidate for governor in 2002, made it three vying to succeed Attorney General Martha Coakley, the others being state Rep. Harold Naughton and former assistant attorney general Maura Healey.
Despite being out of the game for a decade, Republican strategist Rob Gray – Tolman’s partner in punditry on FOX25 – agreed with others saying the Watertown Democrat probably starts as the favorite in the current field. But some Democrats who said they like Tolman cautioned not to sleep on the others, including the relatively unknown Healey who has been lining up some high-profile supporters like former U.S. Sen. Mo Cowan.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Marty Walsh for Boston, whoa-oa-oa.
LENO’S HEADLINES: Andover funnyman Jay Leno singled out a Springfield Republican photo on Monday’s telecast during his popular “Headlines” segment poking fun of local newspaper mistakes. This one had all the hallmarks. Under a photo depicting Rep. Hank Naughton chatting with fellow Reps. Sean Curran and Brian Ashe at a Springfield diner on the first day of his campaign for attorney general, the newspaper ran a caption describing Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker talking with fifth graders. Needless to say, it’s been awhile since either Naughton, Curran or Ashe were in fifth grade. And to top it off, Leno called Baker “Charlie Barker.” The man just can’t catch a break.