Ship without a rudder

By ADAM REILLY  |  March 3, 2006

Why do Wiley, Martin, and Budd hold so much sway? Reilly and Budd, the former US attorney for Massachusetts, grew up together in Springfield but seem to have been more like brothers than close friends. On more than one occasion, Reilly, whose father died when he was young, has spoken about how Budd’s parents helped raise him. In the 1970s, when the racial wounds stemming from Boston’s busing crisis were still fresh, Reilly and Budd — who is African-American — founded their own law firm in the city. When Wiley joined them in 1979, the firm was rechristened Budd, Reilly & Wiley; Martin interned there during law school and was hired immediately after he graduated.

“When [Reilly] was sitting at home with his family” — i.e., Budd, Wiley, and Martin — “it’s my understanding that they’re the ones who pushed for a gut check, which led to St. Fleur,” says a third Democratic insider. “I don’t think he makes a major decision without talking to Wayne Budd,” adds another. “It may be that he’s the only person who can tell Tom something, and Tom will listen.”

There’s still hope
In principle, there’s nothing wrong with turning to old friends for occasional advice. But when that advice turns out to be disastrous, tension between those friends and the campaign’s other elements is sure to result. A hint of this tension came a few days after the St. Fleur debacle ran its course, when unidentified Reilly staffers panned the campaign’s internal decision-making progress in the Globe — an unprecedented development for the usually disciplined Reilly campaign.

Even if Budd, Martin, and Wiley were the finest political minds around, there’d be an inherent risk in allowing three individuals not engaged with the day-to-day realities of the campaign to swoop in and undo decisions that had been carefully and methodically made. But there’s an extra element of jeopardy here. Budd and Martin are Republicans; Wiley is an independent. “They don’t know anything about Democratic Party politics,” complains one Democrat. “They’ve never worked in the Democratic Party. They don’t understand the culture.”

Has Reilly realized that his old way of doing business didn’t work? He may have, actually. It’s been widely noted that the Reilly campaign has been out of the media spotlight for the past several weeks, after squirming in it on a seemingly daily basis at the start of 2006. Maybe the AG has found an individual capable of steering the campaign. Or weeded out his crowded political team. Or, at a bare minimum, supplanted his old, maddeningly organic campaign structure with a clearer chain of command.

Any one of these steps could help Reilly make a serious run at the nomination. The media’s natural tendency, now that Reilly has had his protracted moment of shame, will be to shift their collective focus to Patrick, especially after his huge win (by a four-to-one margin or greater, according to some reports) in February’s Democratic caucuses. Patrick has thrived as an outsider candidate; whether he can do the same as the new front-runner remains to be seen.

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