Tone deaf

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  March 25, 2009

The jury is still out on new Speaker Robert DeLeo's willingness to be friendly — although it's clear that he's more concerned with his membership's 2010 re-election than with Patrick's worries. But just as one obstacle was removed, another has surfaced: Murray.

Much like how Patrick and DiMasi clashed over which approach to take on initiatives concerning the environment, municipalities, and life-sciences funding, Patrick and Murray are now facing off over control of transportation reform, ethics reform, and budget issues.

In the end, Patrick and DiMasi were able to push an enormous amount of legislation across the goal line — and even though it was not all exactly to Patrick's liking, it was an impressive accomplishment.

"There was a lot of this kind of talk in the first two years," says John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. " 'Can he work with the legislature and get his agenda passed?' But it happened."

Walsh predicts that differences will be worked out again this time. But others cite two reasons to think they won't. For one, legislators who felt nearly immune to re-election concerns in 2008 are genuinely worried about how the populist anger will play against them in 2010. And for another, DiMasi's opposition was very different from Murray's wrath.

According to some on Beacon Hill, Murray's hostility toward Patrick began on the very first day of this year's new session — normally a day reserved for celebrating the swearing-in of members. Patrick chose that day to file his ethics-reform bill, placing the attention on the transgressions and charges that led to the ousting of two state senators last year.

"That's what drove Terry Murray mad," says one lawmaker, "because it was a slap in the face, and she took it personally."

The very next day, the administration clumsily announced large pay raises for legislators — a huge embarrassment to lawmakers during a fiscal crisis and an ethics storm. "The first 48 hours was a disaster," says the lawmaker.

Since then, Aloisi has added fuel to that fire. Unless Patrick can get back into Murray's graces, he might be making it even harder to score those long-term victories he's counting on.

To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

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