Tolman says that labor needs to reach out to and engage with community groups and progressive organizations. "We should be telling them that organized labor stands with them on issues of the importance of the middle class," Tolman says. "We have common goals. We should not be divided over little issues."
Of course, Tolman will also need to unify the unions themselves — never an easy task, given their often very different goals. Tolman will represent both building trades and public employees, for instance; public employees have become the lion's share of the membership, but there are large numbers of electrical and communications workers, as well as nurses.
He'll also need to mend the rift that developed in his battle against Sullivan — who was backed by Haynes, to whom leaders of many locals are fiercely loyal.
Sullivan released a gracious letter praising Tolman, and at least for now, everyone's singing from the same hymnal. "I was a huge supporter of Timmy Sullivan — now I'm solidly behind Steve," says Myles Calvey, business manager for IBEW 2222 of Boston. "He has my thousand-percent support, and my local's support."
"He's always been there for all facets of the labor movement," Kelley says. "That will be the catalyst for unifying the labor movement going forward."
NORTH OR SOUTH OF THE CHARLES
The news of Sullivan's concession was an unofficial starting gun for the race to succeed Tolman, in the State Senate seat that includes parts of Allston-Brighton, Back Bay, and Kenmore Square in Boston, as well as portions of Cambridge, Watertown, and Belmont.
Tolman has promised to resign his Senate seat if he wins the labor post. (This may prove embarrassing to State Representative Marty Walsh of Dorchester, who continues to serve in the legislature since becoming president of the Boston Building Trades Council.)
Local pols and observers feel there's a strong chance the seat will return north of the Charles River, where its previous holders had lived for years before Tolman claimed it.
The first to throw his hat in the ring for Tolman's seat was State Representative William Brownsberger, a feisty liberal from Belmont.
Watertown representatives Jon Hecht and John Lawn are also mentioned as possible candidates. Most of the best-known Cambridge pols live outside of the district — although there are already rumors that a rehabilitated Anthony Galluccio is considering a run.
The Bostonian most observers point to is State Representative Kevin Honan, who would likely have Tolman's support if he runs. But many think he is happy in the House, where he chairs the housing committee. Prior to Sullivan withdrawing from the race, Honan demurred when asked by the Phoenix if he would be interested in running, but did not rule it out.
State Representative Michael Moran is said to be uninterested, given his rapid rise in the House under Speaker Robert DeLeo. His role in redistricting would probably make a campaign for higher office difficult anyway.
And Brighton's Mark Ciommo, the only Boston city councilor living in the district, says he is happy where he is, and came close to ruling out a Senate run.
There are other names bandied about — including progressive favorite Tim Schofield, who lost to Moran in a previous bid for a House seat.
To read the Talking Politics blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. Follow David S. Bernstein on Twitter @dbernstein.