State House Roundup: Politics As Usual

The nattering nabobs were aghast.

Treasurer Tim Cahill, Independent for governor, may have – possibly, potentially, perhaps – coordinated an ad campaign with the State Lottery he oversees, employing taxpayer dollars to boost his public image and his flagging campaign.

Collusion! Conspiracy! Or perhaps, politics as usual?

While Republicans were clobbering Cahill over a series of suggestive emails, and Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley – locked in her own reelection fight – announced her office would probe the allegations, a little red booklet landed on the doorstep of millions of Massachusetts residents.

Inside, voters were greeted with a cheery photograph of Secretary of State William Galvin and an empathetic lament about how Massachusetts residents have “suffered” amid economic decline.

Sandwiching 10 pages of information about ballot questions and how to register to vote, another page boasted that “Secretary Galvin’s office has been successful in securing the return of millions of dollars directly back to defrauded investors.” The page is chock full of “Secretary Galvin” references and tributes to his office’s work to protecting victims of investment fraud.

Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday announced he had signed a $420 million spending bill, another chance to spread fiscal love across the state in the 18 days remaining until the election. The bill, primarily funded through onetime federal stimulus dollars, supports services for the low-income, elderly and disabled, shores up the State Police and Department of Correction and funds union pay raises in higher education and sheriff operations that are accompanied by contract concessions.

Patrick spent the week doing his best Johnny Appleseed impression, crisscrossing Massachusetts and leaving a trail of federal grants and proclamations of economic recovery in districts that just happen to be occupied by Democrats in reelection fights.

In Brockton – home to Reps. Geraldine Creedon and Christine Canavan (one Republican challenger apiece) – Patrick announced $165,000 in grants Thursday intended to “aid the revitalization and redevelopment” of the city’s downtown. Patrick later hit New Bedford to stand with Congressman Barney Frank (facing a fired up Republican, Sean Bielat) and announce “relief for our fishing communities.” Frank appeared in another Thursday Patrick press release, along with Fall River Rep. David Sullivan (facing Republican David Rose), announcing the $3.1 million purchase of energy efficient buses for the South Coast. On Wednesday, Patrick announced the reopening of commercial shellfishing in Hull, in a release that included Rep. Garrett Bradley (running against an independent and a Republican). Sen. Marc Pacheco (one Republican challenger) made an appearance in a Wednesday Patrick press release announcing that a Middleboro company has been selected to manufacture parts for Cape Wind – and create hundreds of jobs in the process.

Of the more than 80 lawmakers running unopposed, just one, Rep. Michael Brady of Brockton, appeared in a Patrick announcement.

Countering Patrick’s goodwill tour, Democrat and Paul Loscocco impressionist Tom Reilly, the former attorney general and 2006 gubernatorial frontrunner whom Patrick handily dispatched, joined forces with Republican Charles Baker to say Patrick’s first term “hasn’t gone well.” Reilly blundered his way through the 2006 primary race against Patrick, and some observers wondered whether his endorsement would do Baker any good. Was this the prelude to the string of Baker-crats insiders predicted would give the Republican bipartisan appeal? Can Baker do better than his high-profile praise from Loscocco and Reilly?

Although Reilly represents Baker’s first high-profile Democratic defection, Baker himself stayed away from the announcement, citing a scheduling conflict – same explanation he offered for his quiet acceptance of a state police union endorsement last week.

As the race winds down, Baker’s likeability has emerged as a campaign issue – a new Suffolk/WHDH poll indicated that voters may have soured on him after his press conference alongside Loscocco, the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Republican who ditched Tim Cahill’s campaign to endorse Baker earlier this month.

At the event, Reilly, joined by Baker’s running mate Richard Tisei, lambasted Gov. Patrick for “attacks” on Baker’s record as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. The former attorney general had worked with Baker a decade ago to help rescue the giant insurer from near fiscal ruin. Patrick has ripped Baker for raising premiums while leading the company and simultaneously raising his salary.

On Friday, asked about Reilly’s announcement, Patrick said, "Good for him. I respect Tom Reilly as I do Charlie Baker. He's going to get some endorsements. We're going to get some too. We're going to win this race."

The week was the third straight in which issues were an afterthought, the insiders fixated on the latest episode of Law and Order: TPC. Other statewide races remained relatively dormant – although Mary Connaughton, Republican for auditor, announced the support of a government employee union, and fended off suggestions by her rival, Democrat Suzanne Bump, that she had violated her pledge not to accept PAC donations.

Reinforcing the horserace atmosphere were dueling polls, a Suffolk/WHDH poll showing Patrick leading Baker by 7, and a Baker campaign internal poll showing their candidate leading Patrick by 7. Only Cahill remained constant in each, hovering just above 10 percent.

With the drama surrounding campaign-season spending legislation having subsided, Beacon Hill hallways returned to their familiar election-year quietude, few staffers and even fewer lawmakers making the trip to the sleepy capitol on a holiday-shortened work week.

But the silence was broken Thursday by the liveliest debate of the year – the one between district attorneys and public defenders. DAs from around the state gathered to decry a purported disparity in funding between their offices and publicly funded defense attorneys. The discrepancy, they argued, puts public safety at risk. Public counselors questioned the DAs’ math and argued that they were distorting the truth, and the issue is setting up as one that will be fought in next spring’s budget debate.

With no judge to pound the gavel and demand order in the court, shouting and finger-pointing ensued.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Poll position.

BIG APPLE ENVY? Do the two front-running candidates for governor, Democrat Deval Patrick and Republican Charles Baker, want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep? Asked during a Friday forum which living politician they’d most like to be – other than themselves – Patrick and Baker each picked a mayor of New York City. Baker went with Rudy Giuliani, the two-term Republican mayor known nationally for his response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as his rabid love for the New York Yankees. Patrick picked current New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, the deep-pocketed Independent-turned Republican born in Massachusetts, who recently dropped nine figures into his bid for a third term – after he spearheaded efforts to suspend the city’s term limits. Independent Tim Cahill went with former President George H.W. Bush, who he said should have been given more credit for his handling of the first Persian Gulf War. Green Rainbow candidate Jill Stein picked Mel King, Boston activist and founder of the Rainbow Coalition Party.

This program aired on October 15, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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