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Great Golden’s ghost! (continued)

On the other hand, Walsh, who grew up in Oak Square and worked as a legislative aide for local state representative Kevin Honan, seems to covet the same neighborhood-guy support Moran does. While Walsh may be the most immediately amiable of the various liberal Democrats, he’s clearly annoyed by Moran’s lifelong-resident shtick — perhaps because Walsh’s time outside the district includes a stint in California with the Army National Guard following September 11. "I don’t think it’s a swipe at me," Walsh says, unconvincingly. "At the same time, while there’s much to be said for being a lifelong resident of this neighborhood, I can’t say I regret not being able to use the word." (Still more overlap: Schofield served in Saudi Arabia with the Army during Gulf War I.) Further muddying the waters, Walsh has been endorsed by none other than Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Ms. New Boston herself, which may hinder Schofield’s attempts to frame himself as this race’s Cabral-esque candidate. (Incongruously, Walsh has also been endorsed by the conservative Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association.)

As if all these competing allegiances weren’t worrisome enough for liberals happy to be rid of Golden, Glennon may head into Election Day with an automatic 500-vote advantage over his opponents. Naakh Vysoky, a latter-day ethnic boss who controls a bloc of Russian-Jewish votes in the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly complex on Wallingford Road, is personally close to Glennon — the two reportedly shop for groceries together — and at least one savvy observer of city politics thinks Glennon has secured Vysoky’s support. If so, however, Vysoky’s mind probably could be changed by a friendly call from Mayor Tom Menino. During the 1998 campaign, Golden employed the services of political Svengali and mayoral confidant Ed Jesser, and the prevailing assumption is that Vysoky’s votes followed. In a primary that could be won by fewer than 2000 votes, Vysoky’s support could be the deciding factor.

If anything, the Vysoky aspect merely increases pressure on liberals to engage in a bit of game-theory voting, pondering not just which candidate they like best, but which candidate is best situated to outpoll Glennon. The race won’t end on March 15: Tom O’Brien, a former Democrat and assistant attorney general who also hails from Oak Square, is running as an independent, so whoever prevails in the Democratic primary will still have plenty of work to do. But if Golden’s protégé makes it through this round, he’ll be that much closer to taking over his boss’s old office. If that happens, the Massachusetts House will tilt ever so slightly to the right.

Mitt’s Spartanburg state of mind

Maybe it wasn’t the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign, as the event’s eager organizers wanted the C-SPAN audience to believe. But at the very least, Mitt Romney’s speech to the Spartanburg County GOP Presidents’ Day banquet, in South Carolina, gave us a preview of how our august governor — who almost everyone agrees would really, really like to be president — will sell himself to a national Republican audience in the coming months and years. A few observations:

Romney’s achievements as governor will be incidental. In his introduction, David Wilkins, the Speaker of South Carolina’s House of Representatives, told the assembled crowd they were about to hear from someone "really special." But Romney’s specialness evidently doesn’t include his accomplishments as governor, which Wilkins totally failed to mention. Romney filled in the blanks a bit, citing both his exploits in closing the state’s deficit (without raising taxes!) in 2002 and his administration’s purge of freeloading homeless families from state-subsidized hotel rooms. But Romney spent more of his time and energy praising George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, joking about how isolated Republicans are in Massachusetts, and recalling touching Olympic moments.

Romney’s incisive grasp of world affairs will be pivotal. Turns out the governor has identified a whole new dimension in the gay-marriage debate. He finds it troublingly freakish that (as he told his fellow Republicans in Spartanburg) Massachusetts birth certificates are being altered to replace "Mother" and "Father" with "Parent A" and "Parent B." After all, every child deserves a mother and a father! But this isn’t just cultural war for its own sake — no, the nation’s economic and political strength is also at stake. "America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home," the governor intoned. No word on studies, data, etc. that demonstrate this connection, but hey, there’s plenty of time. And of course, Republican voters who saw September 11 as a consequence of America’s moral turpitude probably won’t require any proof whatsoever.

Lingering guilt will drive Romney to plug Massachusetts even as he mocks it. Being a Republican in Massachusetts, Romney told his Southern hosts, is a bit like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention. Imagine! All those kooky vegetarians! And there’s gay marriage, which is bad for a whole lot of reasons (see above). Still, even though Massachusetts is the land of whacked-out liberal freaks, it’s not totally horrible or anything. "We’re not Taxachusetts anymore," Romney chuckled weakly. "I think we got lower taxes than you do! Come on up and see!" One more reason to look forward to the end of the Romney era: whenever it comes, the governor can stop plugging a state he often seems to disdain.

Department of bad publicity

Boston city councilor Maura Hennigan hasn’t even officially announced her mayoral candidacy, but most observers of city politics assume she’ll be crushed by incumbent Tom Menino come November (see "Key to the City," News and Features, August 27, 2004). Still, Hennigan has a chance to fight the good fight by forcing Menino, who goes unchallenged all too often, to discuss genuine problems facing Boston today. (A preliminary list: stalled development at the South Boston waterfront, an obscenely overpriced housing market that’s driving out middle-class residents, nonexistent oversight of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, abiding frustration with the city’s public schools.)

Instead, Hennigan seems willing to play the role of novelty politician. Last Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported that Hennigan had hired Mitch Kates — a Foxborough native, former Kerry field operative, and onetime low-level professional wrestler — as her campaign manager. The piece was a case study in quirkiness, with Kates challenging Menino to a cage match and a picture of Kates in his old wrestling get-up (complete with hockey mask and ax). Kudos to the cash-strapped Hennigan for getting herself some free press. But with her pre-existing credibility deficit, the last thing she needs is for voters to take her less seriously than they already do. If this continues, Menino may face virtually no credible pressure to account for decisions he’s made over the past four years. And that would be a loss for anyone who cares about Boston.

Adam Reilly can be reached at areilly[a]phx.com

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Issue Date: February 25 - March 3, 2005
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