By Adam Reilly | Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Feb. 22, 2011
BOSTON — About 70 people stood patiently in front of Barnes & Noble at the Prudential Center in Boston on Tuesday. They were waiting to get their copies of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s ballyhooed new autobiography, Against All Odds: My Life of Hardships, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances — and they were hoping to get them signed by the senator himself.
The buzz around Against All Odds has been building ever since Brown revealed in a 60 Minutes interview that he’d been the victim of sexual abuse as a child.
At the Prudential Center, some of Brown’s supporters were still trying to figure out just what to make of that news. “I thought it was a little shocking that he came out and said that type of stuff,” said Eric Moreira of Dartmouth.
“I respect him for that,” Moreira added. “Definitely got a big buzz in the news recently. Not sure if that’s to boost sales of the book or what — but I respect him for saying those things and being truthful.”
But others were less interested in the motives behind Brown’s disclosure than their possible consequences. Jan Petty of Boston said that Brown’s story could be heartening to other sex-abuse victims.
“I don’t know whether he’s happy that that’s what everyone is talking about,” Petty said. “But I think he’s going to probably help some people who’ve been through the same thing he has, and let them know that you still can make it.”
Some conservatives have criticized Brown for his willingness to break ranks with his party and vote with the Senate’s Democrats. But Petty has no problem with Brown's heterodoxy.
“Not really,” she said when asked if she’d been disappointed by Brown’s votes across party lines. “I thought he would have to do that in order to – hopefully – get reelected.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Against All Odds was number 30 on Amazon.com’s list of its top 100 bestsellers.
By Adam Reilly | Friday, February 11, 2011
Feb. 11, 2011
BOSTON — Back in the Colonial era, the Massachusetts Governor’s Council had plenty of clout. Lately, though, it’s acquired a reputation as an antiquated, do-nothing body. Now, calls are mounting to eliminate the Council altogether.
So it may not be a coincidence that the Council has been making life increasingly difficult for Gov. Deval Patrick.
This week, the Governor’s Council nearly rejected Gov. Patrick’s judicial nominee Heather Bradley, showcasing its penchant for political fireworks. At one point, Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney waxed indignant about money that Bradley and her husband, State Rep. Garrett Bradley, have lavished on Massachusetts politicians.
“$210,00 dollars just in the past 3 years. How egregious is this?” Devaney asked.
Devaney also turned up the heat on her colleague at the council, Kelly Timilty, who got some of the Bradleys’ cash.
“I will respectfully request Councilor Timilty again to recuse herself from this vote,” Devaney said.
“I will not!” Timilty answered.
“As it would give the appearance of undo influence,” Deveney said, as Timilty shrugged.
Next up was newly elected Republican Councilor Charles Cipollini, who’s quickly earning a reputation for high drama. His commentary on Bradley didn’t disappoint.
“She is grossly unqualified and she lacks the experience,” Cipollini said, almost glowering.
For good measure, Cipollini vowed to continue his anti-Bradley fight even if she became a judge.
“I will file a complaint with the Massachusetts state ethics commission regarding the over $200,000 dollars she and her husband made in political contributions. My vote is no!” Cipollini added.
After the council split four-to-four, Governor Patrick took the gavel so Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray could cast the deciding vote.
He voted yes.
It was the first 5-4 vote in years, and grist for critics who say the Council is a needless impediment. The Boston Globe and the liberal blog Blue Mass. Group say the council should be eliminated. And a new bill from State Senator Brian Joyce would do just that. But supporters like the Fatherhood Coalition’s Joe Ureneck disagree.
“Finally the council is having some real discussion about these judicial nominations that are coming forward, instead of just being a rubber stamp,” Ureneck argued.
Next up for the Council: A vote on Joshua Wall, the governor’s pick to head the state’s troubled Parole Board. If you like political theater, make sure to bring some popcorn.
By Adam Reilly | Monday, December 12, 2011
Dec. 12, 2011
BOSTON — Elizabeth Warren has one less Democrat to worry about as she prepares to challenge Republican Sen. Scott Brown in 2012. State Rep. Tom Conroy (D-Wayland) ended his Senate campaign at the State House, saying that after Warren jumped in the race in September, it quickly became clear that she’d be almost impossible to beat.
“I did not enter this race, however, to run against Elizabeth Warren,” Conroy said. “I entered this race to run against a reckless Republican who’s not serving the best interest of the people of Massachusetts. But her name recognition, financial resources and ability to energize thousands of volunteers have closed my window of opportunity to compete against him.”
Conroy also announced that he’s endorsing Warren in the Democratic race.
Asked if the other Democrats still running should clear the field for Warren, Conroy was noncommittal, saying the decision should be left to each candidate. But he also made it clear that he thinks Warren is already prepared to face Brown in the general election — and doesn’t need a competitive primary to toughen her up.
“I think she’s a very strong candidate,” Conroy said. “She’s very sharp and quick on her feet — I think she demonstrated that in [last week’s] debate. She’s a very intelligent woman.”
With Conroy out of the race, Warren’s challengers include lawyers Marisa DeFranco and Jim King and engineer Herb Robinson. During the Dec. 6 Democratic Senate debate at Stonehill College, DeFranco had some success attacking Warren from the left. But a recent UMass Amherst poll showed DeFranco had the support of just 6 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, compared to 73 percent for Warren. That same poll put Conroy’s support at 7 percent.
By Adam Reilly | Monday, December 5, 2011
Dec. 5, 2011
MANCHESTER, N.H. — For the past year, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has followed a predictable pattern. A Mitt Romney rival surges in the polls, can’t stand the spotlight and fades into obscurity — replaced by another rival who does exactly the same thing.
But the latest anti-Romney, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, seems to have a bit more staying power. And he’s raising new doubts about the inevitability of Romney landing the nomination — even in the former Mass. governor’s stronghold of New Hampshire.
Hit the ground running
Gingrich’s New Hampshire headquarters looks unlived in. That’s because it is. In contrast to Romney, who opened his New Hampshire headquarters in May, Gingrich’s, on Elm Street in Manchester, N.H., has been open for less than a month.
Andrew Hemingway, Gingrich’s New Hampshire campaign director, freely admitted that his candidate got a late start.
“Most of the other campaigns have been here for probably over a year, and they’re established. They’ve got everything moving,” Hemingway said.
Still, Gingrich has been chipping away at Romney’s once-vast lead in the Granite State. A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports put Romney’s cushion at just 10 points.
Hemingway predicted that down the home stretch, the Gingrich campaign’s lack of structure will provide a jolt of grassroots energy.
“It’s forcing us to run a campaign that’s completely decentralized, completely based on people willing to come on board who are willing who to help us, who are willing to push it,” he said. “Our organization literally depends on our volunteers.”
"He has great ideas"
In other words, it depends on people like Jonathan and Jean White of Amherst, N.H. After picking up some Newt 2012 yard signs, the Whites explained why they think Gingrich is the best of the GOP bunch.
“He balanced the budget for four years in a row while he was speaker of the House,” said John White. “He’s a tremendous intellect. He has great ideas.”
“I’m a Catholic and I think he’s living out his faith,” Jean White added. “That’s part of who he is and that’s part of what’s guiding him.”
For his part, Romney wants voters to see Gingrich and think “Washington insider.” During a recent interview on WTPL-FM, “New Hampshire Today” host Jack Heath asked Romney to describe the main differences between him and Gingrich.
“If the people of America are looking for folks that have a background in Washington,” Romney said, “who’ve spent a lifetime in Washington, who’ve worked in government affairs or lobbying — why, there are a lot of people to choose from.”
But with his poll numbers dropping, Romney may have to be more aggressive, especially since Gingrich has some traits that New Hampshire voters tend to prize.
“He’s less packaged, he’s not perfect, he’s a little disheveled,” Heath said of Gingrich. “He’s got that college professor look, versus Mitt Romney, who looks like he’s gotten the Academy Award role to play the president if Michael Douglas isn’t available.”
Heath agreed with Hemingway that Gingrich’s late start in New Hampshire won’t hurt him.
“[Gingrich] hasn’t lost anything from it,” Heath said. “He’s doing well and if he spends more time here and presses the flesh, goes to coffee shops, he’s going to have the national media horde and the local regional media. So I think he got lucky.”
If Newt, then what?
As of Dec. 2, Heath predicted that Romney would win New Hampshire by just three to five percentage points — an outcome that could reinforce the perception that Romney is fading and Gingrich surging. Heath thought there was a legitimate chance that Gingrich would win New Hampshire outright.
Since losing New Hampshire could doom Romney’s presidential hopes, his campaign will do everything possible to keep it from happening. But Hemingway claimed the passion was on Gingrich’s side.
“It’s a woman from Pennsylvania who emails me or writes a handwritten letter and says, ‘Hey, I’m disabled, I can’t do much, but I just rented a hotel room across the street and I’m going to be living in New Hampshire for five weeks because I want to be involved in the Newt Gingrich campaign,’” Hemingway said, smiling broadly.
In the end, that energy may not be enough to defeat Romney. But it’s already enough to make him sweat.
By Adam Reilly | Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Apr. 13, 2011
If former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney runs for president in 2012 — and right now, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t — his biggest weakness will undoubtedly be the state health care reform law he signed five years ago today. Like the federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama, the Massachusetts law mandates that individuals buy insurance — and that’s a provision that rankles many Republican primary voters. Witness a recent Public Policy Polling survey that found that a whopping 61 percent of GOP primary voters won’t back a candidate who supported an individual mandate at the state level.
Naturally, Massachusetts Democrats are doing everything they can to tie the healthcare albatross around Romney’s neck. Which is why, on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Democratic Party celebrated the fifth anniversary of the state’s landmark healthcare reform law with a vanilla-frosted cake that had a message — written in red icing — for the former governor. “Massachusetts healthcare a model for the nation,” it read. “Thank you Mitt!”
Democratic Party Chair John Walsh acknowledges — grudgingly — that the praise for Romney isn’t entirely sincere. “There is obviously a little bit of tongue in cheek here,” Walsh said. “Whenever you think someone is successful and you recognize that congratulating them embarrasses them — it’s curious at the least.
“I don’t know whether this is the issue that will sink Mitt Romney,” Walsh added. “As the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and as someone who lived in Massachusetts when he was governor, I’ll be looking for whatever that issue is.
Along with the cake, state Democrats also unveiled a video, titled “Thanks, Mitt,” of comments Romney has made about the Massachusetts healthcare law since its passage. For example: “When I set out to find a way to get everybody health insurance, I couldn’t have cared less and I don’t care less about how it works politically. In my view, it’s the right thing to do.” Or, even better: “Ted Kennedy supporting a bill which I authored — that’s going to actually be a cure to global warming. Because Hell has frozen over.”
John Walsh says he hopes the video goes viral – but he should ask himself: might that actually help Romney? After all, Romney’s strategy for neutralizing his healthcare liability is simple: he’s going to say, again and again, that President Barack Obama erred by imposing a one-size-fits-all health care solution on fifty states. And the video actually lends credence to this critique: At no point does Romney actually say that the Massachusetts law should serve as a model for sweeping federal reform.
Of course, that may not be enough to satisfy GOP diehards who think any mandate is a bad mandate. But to others, it could confirm that – on this issue, at least — our former governor has actually been pretty consistent.
By Adam Reilly | Friday, March 18, 2011
Mar. 18, 2011
BOSTON — There was a big media crowd at Governor Patrick's press availability this morning, and it's safe to say that most of us thought things might get testy. After all, the conditions seemed perfect. Patrick had just returned from a lengthy, somewhat controversial overseas trip. While he was gone, Fidelity Investments announced that it was moving 1,000 jobs out of state — without giving Patrick a chance to make a counterargument. What's more, we just learned that Patrick's own transportation secretary kept the governor — and the public — in the dark about a spooky new problem with the fruits of the Big Dig. Bring on the fireworks!
Didn't happen. The governor gave a strong performance — and I felt my skepticism about his past week ebb a bit, despite myself.
Asked about Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan, Patrick said he was as frustrated as everybody else that Mullan kept quiet about that falling 100-pound light fixture for six weeks. But, he added, Mullan knows he screwed up. He's apologized. He has Patrick's full confidence. And it's time to move on.
As he's done in the past, Patrick also sounded a frustrated note on Fidelity's upcoming move, noting (again) that top Fidelity leadership failed to mention their plans during a recent meeting. I asked Patrick if his relationship with the company had frayed since founder Ned Johnson and his daughter Abigail backed Charlie Baker during last year's governor's race. Patrick responded that he had plenty of political supporters at Fidelity.
But he also noted that Fidelity was supposed to send someone on the just-completed Massachusetts trade mission--but backed out at the last minute. And a few minutes later — referring to an upcoming meeting with Fidelity brass — he hinted that his own relationship with the company has been strained since he took office in 2007. To paraphrase: I've told them since early in my tenure that businesses to work with the state to thrive. Evidently, he doesn't think Fidelity's listened. (Apologies for the lack of verbatim quotes; my audio of the presser vanished in an iPhone crash.)
Some members of the media were in full provocateur mode this morning. At one point, a female reporter — I didn't catch which one — asked the governor if his trip abroad had been worth everything he lost here at home. The governor looked quizzical and asked her to elaborate. Well, she explained, Fidelity is moving all those jobs elsewhere, and the public is losing trust in your judgment.The governor responded by telling the reporter, in the nicest possible way, that she had it wrong. The public trusts his judgment, but doesn't like the fact that Mullan kept quiet for so long. And now that's been dealt with.
Actually, the public may not be as sanguine as Patrick says. As I tweeted this morning, the fact that Mullan waited so long to tell Patrick about this new post-Big Dig problem makes you wonder if the administration is working the way it should. Still, Patrick's performance this morning was strong enough that I found myself feeling less skeptical of the matter.
Couple more things. First, today's presser followed the cancellation of a media availability at Logan Airport last night. If the press had grilled Patrick right after he landed in the U.S., we might have seen a less masterful performance. So, good call by Patrick and his press team.
Finally, Patrick made a comment today about his managerial style that's worth pondering.
"I've told my team they can bring me any issue at any time, but I want a solution too. And fortunately when I was informed [Mullan] was able to tell me that an exhaustive review and inspection of all the light fixtures has taken place," Patrick said.
I've never been a manager. But I wonder: should the governor tell his subordinates not to come to him with problems unless they've got a solution? Or might that create a timidity and lack of candor that could, say, lead to top administration official keeping a serious problem quiet for weeks?
You can reach Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.