The Hill and the Hall Week in Review
Each Friday, Paul McMorrow will take you inside the smoke-filled rooms and darkly-lit corridors of government to bring you the hottest and juiciest political tidbits. This Week: The governor’s genius move, plus: the nasty wake left by John Buonomo, or as they call it in Somerville, politics.
Gov. Deval Patrick spent the week pissing people off. Unlike all those other times, though, Patrick should be rejoicing at the sound of these wailing choruses.
The governor began the week by vetoing a multi-billion dollar pension increase for state retirees. Ralph White, president of the retirees’ union (62,000 members strong), pronounced his members “very, very angry” with the governor. At least the old people don’t have guns. The same can’t be said for the state’s cops, whom Patrick is about to squeeze out of roadside detail work, to the ire of the Massachusetts Police Association and the state AFL-CIO.
This is genius.
It’s critical that Patrick start burning the organized masses that got him elected. It’s one thing to cravenly cuddle up next to casino-hungry Teamsters; it’s another to be seen as fattening friendly interests’ wallets while the state’s fiscal death spiral accelerates. He can publicly disavow interest in the Corner Office all he wants, but an economic collapse – it’s a distinct possibility – would present State Treasurer Tim Cahill with an irresistible chance to take a run at Patrick.
Patrick should know by now, impressive talking-points pdfs notwithstanding, that it’s public perception that will make or break him. The more he can be painted as a Beacon Hill Nero, tossing buckets of taxpayers’ dollars to political supporters while hard-working Americans have to stoop to visiting Sal’s Pizza three times a week just to feed their malnourished families, the more he opens himself to an insurrection.
And the surest way to guard against an insurrection will be to pretend, for just a little while, that he’s Mitt Romney – and, for the sake of this great Commonwealth, make sure to smile for the cameras while he smacks around a union or two. It’ll do more for his poll numbers in Haverhill than any super-sexy prime time speech ever could.
The Buonomo saga makes a nice bookend to that other ludicrous race roiling southern Middlesex Country right now. In one corner, we’ve got D-list Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton fisticuffs (the term is used quite loosely). And in the other, there’s the hack who makes over $110,000 a year for the privilege of and handing plum jobs to his political supporters, and who, in spite of that generous compensation package, still feels compelled to swipe pocket change from the office copy machine. Even after he knows he’s probably under investigation.
But it’s the write-in Democrat challenging Buonomo who really makes this race a thing of beauty.
Meet Sean O’Donovan. He has engaged in perennial flirtation with higher office, but never risen above Somerville alderman. His consolation prize for missing out on cushier offices and fatter salaries? By staying in town, he’s able to grandstand against density in his own neighborhood while cramming condos into somebody else’s. And what if that somebody happens to be the relative of your Congressman (and former mayor)? No worries. That’s where your checkbook comes in.
According to reports, O’Donovan and the chair of Somerville’s zoning board have been sending money to each other for nearly a decade; most of the cash ended up in a charitable fund controlled by the chair. After the zoning board broomed through O’Donovan’s most recent condo proposal, over the objections of neighbors and one of O’Donovan’s Board of Alderman colleagues.
One project opponent told the Somerville News, “This whole process has been all about politics and Sean O’Donovan’s connections. It became clear by the way he ran the meetings that [the zoning chair] wanted this project to go through.” One anonymous News commenter cast the race as a contest between “a petty larcenist” and “a grand larcenist.”
Buonomo, as an officeholder, does have an active campaign account. And though he hasn’t raised any money since the first half of June, he ended July with nearly $135,000 in the bank. According to campaign finance reports, Buonomo has spent roughly $4,000 on yard signs and mailers over the past two months. Wonder if they’ll have to be reworked to reflect the Register of Probate’s new, uh, situation. “Vote Buonomo: You know it makes cents!” Or if, since the DA is after Buonomo for crimes allegedly committed while on the job, he’ll try to pay his lawyer’s bills with his political supporters contributions.
A word from the other side of the aisle: Buonomo’s prospective Republican opponent, Natick’s John Lambert, hasn’t had any activity at OCPF since his failed 2004 bid for the House. That race, part of Mitt Romney’s spectacularly unproductive bid to wrest the Legislature away from Trav, King Tom and Sal, saw Lambert burn through every last cent in campaign account – and then get steamrolled by David Linsky.
Better luck this time!
Photo from Mass.gov