State House Roundup: Party Time

Elections have consequences. Apparently, so do election dates.

Beacon Hill overlords let out a collective “oops” this week when they realized that their new law to move next year’s primary elections to Sept. 6 – to avoid a conflict with Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 18 – conflicts with the holiest day in Democratic politics: the nomination of President Obama to a second term.

The slapdash schedule, agreed to by Gov. Deval Patrick after it glided through a busy Legislature, transmogrified a bipartisan administrative maneuver into a festering political morass, with Republicans pouncing on the blunder to accuse Democrats of using calendar tricks to the detriment of the GOP.

Elected Wednesday night as the new Republican Party chair, Bob Maginn lashed out at the governor, issuing a tortured letter Friday to suggest that moving the primary date again – as Patrick called for this week, citing the DNC as his reason – benefits Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren at the expense of her Democratic rivals and Republican incumbent Scott Brown. (Republican Party officials couldn’t explain the logic of their charge, which was apparently based on the assumption that Democrats would seek to move the primary even earlier, although no one has publicly made that suggestion.)

Meanwhile, Warren absorbed her first intraparty broadside Thursday when one of the last Democratic contenders yet to be voted off the island decided to directly engage the frontrunner. Rep. Thomas Conroy (D-Wayland), unveiling a $500 billion job plan he said he’d lobby for as a senator, threw some catnip at the feet of the National Republican Senatorial Committee when he accused Warren of lacking her own plan to juice the economy.

“I've rolled out a plan," he said. "Where's hers? What has she demonstrated in terms of policy initiatives? What's her understanding of the economy and the way it works? I've laid out a plan here that demonstrates all three of those things, and I'd ask her to respond.”

A response came in the form of a UMass-Amherst poll showing Warren trouncing Conroy 73-7, and edging Brown in a hypothetical general election. Brown, meanwhile, saw his unfavorables climb to 49 percent, while his favorables hung at 37 percent in the poll of 500 registered voters. The poll carries a 4.4 percent margin of error.

While Conroy squinted into the sun at the foot of the State House, the governor basked in it on the other side of the equator, jetting to Santiago to ink a trade agreement with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, meanwhile, traveled to Florida for a meeting of the National Lieutenant Governors Association. The absence of both leaders left Secretary of State William Galvin as the custodian of state government. Galvin, as the state’s election chief, has advocated leaving the primary date right where it is, arguing that the conflict between the election and the Democratic National Convention is merely a perceived dilemma. Galvin’s take: the needs of a few hundred activists wanting to watch a glorified “balloon drop” pales next to the importance of smooth election administration.

When they weren’t fretting about the calendar, Democrats despaired over the announced retirement of quote machine/Congressman Barney Frank. Just as Democrats had finished patting themselves on the back for completing a Congressional redistricting process with barely a whisper of protest or complaint from any good-government groups, Frank protested and complained that he didn’t have any interest in campaigning in a newly drawn district and getting to know new potential constituents. In other words, the new map shoved him out of politics a little sooner than he’d planned - Frank said he’d only planned to run once more anyway.


Frank’s impending departure popped the already bursting piñata that is the 4th Congressional district. Suddenly every elected official and political retread became a prospective candidate for a seat Frank has held down for 30 years, with no immediately obvious field-clearing options on either side of the aisle.

While one political door opened, a jail cell door slammed shut this week. Barring a successful appeal, Sal DiMasi’s countdown to 2019 began Wednesday in a medical prison facility in Kentucky, where he began his incarceration for bilking taxpayers in exchange for kickbacks. The former House speaker on the eve of his imprisonment reasserted his innocence and ripped the onset of a “casino culture” in Massachusetts brought on by the passage of expanded gambling legislation he had sought to prevent.

In actuality, DiMasi may have hastened the success of legalized casinos, his transgressions leading to his downfall and clearing the way for the rise of his successor, Speaker Robert DeLeo. A champion of expanded gambling, DeLeo ascended to power largely with DiMasi’s blessing. During DiMasi’s trial, it was revealed by a DiMasi confidant that the two men met secretly to discuss getting DeLeo elected as DiMasi’s successor once DiMasi’ left office.

DiMasi, at the time, publicly professed plans to remain speaker for years and threatened to punish deputies angling to replace him. DeLeo’s House colleagues elected him speaker in January 2009.

“LET’S SUE ’EM THEN” | Someone in Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office must have uttered those words while Coakley was locked in settlement negotiations with five banks at the center of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. And Coakley agreed, launching what she described as a first-of-its-kind suit against Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citi and GMAC. Coakley argued that the banks used fraudulent documentation during foreclosure proceedings, including so-called “robo-signing,” and illegally foreclosed on properties without holding the actual mortgages. “This suit seeks accountability against the banks for both cutting corners and also rushing to unnecessarily foreclose homeowners without following the rule of law,” Coakley said during a press conference in her office. It remains to be seen whether bank CEOs will set up an encampment outside 1 Ashburton Place while they fight the suit.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “If the governor thinks I’m going to side with the Democratic National Convention over getting ballots out to our military voters he can go take a flying leap off of something.” – House Minority Leader Bradley Jones on the suggestion that Gov. Patrick would change the primary date – again – to avoid a conflict with the DNC.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Barney to bail, Sal to jail.

This program aired on December 2, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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