Southie's last stand

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  February 12, 2013

Redistricting — controversially chaired by Linehan himself — appears to have given Lee a slight boost if she runs again. She has not declared her intention, but has been raising money. Linehan has made no official announcement, but has been telling people he will run for re-election.

Interestingly, some of Lee's success in 2011 came from winning votes right in South Boston — evidence, some say, that Southie isn't what people think it is.

Lee agrees. "The difference between South Boston and other communities is that there are a lot more people who are politically informed," Lee says. "I wish that more communities were like that — South Boston is a community that other communities could learn a lot from."

More dominoes

That ongoing political interest translates into higher turnout, which has helped Southie candidates prevail — especially in low-turnout special elections.

That might happen again in the state Senate primary, which will be held the same day as the US Senate primary. Collins should benefit from high turnout on behalf of Lynch.

And Linehan might have a good chance of surviving if Tom Menino runs for re-election unchallenged, leading to lower overall turnout — when those politically active old Southie residents will come to the polls regardless.

But that high interest level only makes it more notable that Southie has not seemed to produce a new generation of successful pols. Hart, Lynch, Flaherty, and Linehan haven't risen to the status of Moakley, Bulger, McCormack, or Jimmy Kelly. And the city's up-and-comers seem to be hailing from JP and Roxbury, not South Boston.

But all that could change this year. Flaherty, for example, has indicated that he is looking at upcoming opportunities, which many are taking as a declaration of intent for Lynch's congressional seat, should he graduate to US Senate.

And other young Southie talents, including Mark McGonagle, who lost to Collins in 2010, are likely to jump at the chance to run for state representative or city council, if openings come up. "There's a new generation of community activists in South Boston, coming of age and getting very active," Collins says.

Nevertheless, there's a very good chance that 2013 will be the year when Southie residents have to get used to being represented by outsiders. And that could very well be how they find renewed power.

After all, Boston pols from all parts of the city look with envy at those South Boston voter numbers.

As long as there are Southie candidates, those others will assume that they can't compete for those votes.

It might ultimately be better for South Boston to have, for example, Tom Menino, John Connolly, and other mayoral candidates fighting over their votes, rather than having Flaherty take them for granted, as in 2009. It certainly could benefit Lynch, who is potentially in a position to win Menino's endorsement for Senate, in hopes of reciprocal help for his own re-election.

Same goes for the at-large council race and for the likely sheriff's race coming next year.

The alternative is for Southie old-timers to keep stubbornly voting for their own, in a city that has moved on ideologically and demographically. That might allow them to keep feeling special and superior, but won't get them much else.

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DBERNSTEIN@PHX.COM :: @DBERNSTEIN

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