Walsh's name in the mix for possible Speaker's bid

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Nov. 26, 2008

There's been a King Tom. Right now there's a King Sal. Could there be a King Marty on the way?

As ethics investigations and a fight over who will be the next House speaker roil Beacon Hill, Rep. Martin Walsh's name has cropped up in news reports and within the walls of the State House as a candidate to succeed Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, a Boston Democrat.

DiMasi took the job in 2004 after Mattapan's Thomas Finneran stepped down and DiMasi says he has no plans to leave. He also says he has done nothing wrong, as associates of his are reportedly under investigation by the State Ethics Commission and state Attorney General Martha Coakley for allegedly influencing legislation.

But speculation continues to swirl over whether DiMasi will step down and two representatives, House Ways and Means chairman Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and House Majority Leader John Rogers (D-Norwood), have been lining up votes to take over the job should DiMasi go.

In the last week or so, Walsh's name has also emerged as a candidate, along with a number of other representatives, including state Rep. Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams) and Rep. John Quinn (D-Dartmouth).

"I'm not a candidate," Walsh said when asked, while admitting several people have mentioned the idea to him.

"It's nice to hear that," he said. But, he added, "We have a speaker."

And should DiMasi step down? "I'm assuming both of those folks will be in the race," Walsh said, referring to Rogers, whom he supports, and DeLeo.

Walsh declined to rule out a run in the future. "Who knows what's going to happen in this business?" he said.

Should he ever ascend to the speakership, Walsh, 41, would be following in the footsteps of Finneran, a fellow conservative Dorchester Democrat, and Robert Quinn, a Savin Hill Democrat who stepped down from the post in 1969 to become attorney general.

State Sen. Jack Hart said he hopes the opportunity presents itself.

"Quinn, Finneran, Walsh. Has a nice ring to it," he quipped.

And under his own proposal that he laid out this week, if elected, Walsh would serve three two-year terms.

Walsh, joined by Quinn, released a 12-point ethics reform package limiting the House speaker's terms, opening House Ethics Committee hearings to the public, and putting a private company in charge of re-districting responsibilities, a matter that got Finneran in trouble with federal agents and led to a conviction.

Walsh voted to repeal term limits under Finneran, and said he now regrets the vote.

"There's a lot of stuff swirling around the House right now," he said. "Somebody needs to take a lead here."