The political virgins

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 9, 2009

They add that the freshmen will benefit from what is these days considered to be a particularly collegial atmosphere in the State Senate, which they attribute in part to the style of leadership under Murray, and in part to the perception that state senators need to work together on the extraordinary fiscal challenges.

“All the senators as a body will be working together, and none of them will be shortchanged,” agrees veteran state senator Steve Tolman of Brighton. “There’s a real sense of chemistry.”

Tolman also enthuses about the new state senators themselves, all six of whom he finds impressive. He particularly raves about Donnelly. Says Tolman, “I have never met a more sincere, conscientious advocate of working people.”

Chang-Díaz has also impressed her new colleagues with her eagerness to learn the State Senate’s protocols and processes.

Unusually high turnover in Middlesex County House districts — where eight of this year’s 15 freshmen representatives in that chamber hail from — puts even more pressure on Eldridge and Flanagan. Eldridge’s district alone has five newly elected representatives, who will need to rely on him more than might veteran colleagues.

And he, in turn, will lean on them for help in learning his district. In addition to knowing what to fight for in the budget battles, that will include preparing to lobby for “shovel-ready” construction projects in the area, which will compete for funding under an expected initiative of the new Obama administration.

“[Eldridge is] not going to have time to meet with all of the selectmen from all of the communities,” says Danielle Gregoire, newly elected state representative from Marlborough. “I can meet with them and pass their input along to him.”

Of course, there is one benefit to being new to the State Senate: the freshmen are not tainted by the scandals that have of late hung over the chamber.

Fools rush in?
The conventional wisdom — which assumes that Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon’s mayoral runs will prove to be fool’s errands — holds that the at-large City Council candidate who gets the most votes this year becomes the early favorite to likely succeed Menino in four years.

Although Steve Murphy finished second in 2007, several City Hall observers suggest that John Connolly, now in his first term, could leap-frog from fourth to first among at-large candidates this year, in the absence of Flaherty and Yoon, and become an early 2013 front-runner.

Opening on the council?
New blood might also enter local politics later this year, when Boston holds its city elections.

Potential rookie candidates are watching At-Large City Councilors Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon for signs that they will run for mayor. Should they do so, two of the City Council’s four at-large (citywide) seats will be vacated. Most close observers believe that Flaherty has already made up his mind to take on incumbent Tom Menino. An increasing number, including two councilors speaking on background, believe that Yoon will also run.

Even before Flaherty and Yoon have declared their intentions, seven men have already publicly announced their candidacies or formed campaign committees for the City Council: Felix G. Arroyo of Jamaica Plain (son of former councilor Felix D. Arroyo), Doug Bennett of the North End, Marty Hogan of Dorchester, Andrew Kenneally of East Boston, Jean-Claude Sanon of Mattapan, Robert Terrell of Roxbury, and Scotland Willis of Roxbury. All but Hogan are first-time candidates.

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