Murph’s Last Grasp?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  March 24, 2010

Indeed, that message would mark a radical departure from Murphy’s message on the campaign trail just a few months ago — which was that his years of experience in City Hall make him invaluable. (Murphy did not return calls for comment.)

Murphy, in fact, stood out as the wise old veteran pol during that campaign, which included first-term councilor Connolly and a host of newcomers seeking two open seats. If Murphy does defeat Grossman, and goes on to defeat State Representative Karyn Polito, the likely Republican nominee, in November, the Council will take on a dramatically younger sheen: by law, Murphy would be replaced on the Council by last year’s fifth-place finisher, Tito Jackson — dropping the average age of Boston’s four at-large councilors below 35.

Candidates, come out
Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon gave Boston Mayor Tom Menino his toughest re-election challenge in 16 years — and by leaving the City Council, opened two at-large seats, resulting in that unusually diverse, young, and interesting field of candidates.

By comparison, 2010 is proving to be a bit of a letdown for politically minded Bostonians.

Even as we hear about anti-incumbent fervor in Massachusetts, and the “Scott Brown effect” prodding Republicans and independents to run for office, Democratic officeholders in Boston are almost all getting free passes in their re-election bids.

It’s a scenario few would have predicted after former state senator Dianne Wilkerson’s defeat by primary challenger Sonia Chang-Díaz in 2008, the subsequent exposure of alleged wrongdoing by Wilkerson and former House Speaker Sal DiMasi of the North End, and the Boston success of Brown in January’s special US Senate election.

That could change, with two months left until the deadline for candidates to submit signatures. Congressman Stephen Lynch, always considered too conservative for many Democrats in the city, may have ensured a primary challenge when he voted against the health-care-reform bill this past weekend. And progressive activist Harmony Wu of Needham has pulled papers for a potential campaign for that seat; she is being encouraged by area liberals.

Barring a wave-making performance by Wu, however, most city incumbents up for re-election this year appear headed to easy, yawn-inducing coronations for the incumbents.

Some city insiders are surprised that nobody is taking on District Attorney Dan Conley, and that Andrea Cabral’s only opposition for sheriff is little-known and poorly funded Democrat Hassan Smith of Dorchester.

Both incumbents have detractors in the city and in the local media, and their offices are known to be coveted by other city pols. But both have worked hard to solidify their political alliances — Cabral has become a steadfast Menino ally — and would be difficult to unseat.

The lack of excitement also extends to most of the city’s state legislative races. Four of the six state senators who represent portions of Boston are running unopposed for re-election. A fifth, where Marian Walsh is retiring, looks to be a surprisingly easy win for Representative Mike Rush, as other candidates have stayed out of the race.

Rush’s seat in the House is one of just four in the city — out of 17 — where the outcome is in any doubt. The others are the open seats in South Boston, Dorchester, and Dorchester/Roxbury, where Brian Wallace, Marie St. Fleur, and Willie Mae Allen, respectively, are retiring.

Only a single opponent — in any party — has come forward against the 13 House incumbents from Boston running for re-election: Brad Marston, a conservative Republican who has little chance of ousting Back Bay’s Marty Walz.

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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