2009: The year in politics

For political junkies, the year 2010 will be, to steal a phrase that U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano borrowed himself, "manna from heaven." All six constitutional offices -- governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor -- could see spirited races, as could other positions down the ballot. And for that, political junkies can a tip a collective hat to the year 2009, which in some ways was a set-up year, when intense plotting followed the major events.

The biggest political story of the year was the death of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. His death accelerated the planning among fellow politicians as the first dominoes appeared to fall. Attorney General Martha Coakley is now the Democratic nominee to replace him, running against state Sen. Scott Brown, a Wrentham Republican.

Another big story in 2009 was Boston's mayoral race in which ncumbent Thomas Menino triumphed over challenger Michael Flaherty. The race is seen by some as a preview of 2013. Indeed, when Menino and Flaherty spoke on election night, Flaherty asked for a rematch.

The departure of Flaherty to run for higher office, as well as Sam Yoon's decision to also run for mayor, opened up two at-large seats on the City Council. Fifteen candidates would compete for their seats, with two of them -- Felix Arroyo, son of the former city councillor, and Ayanna Pressley, former aide to U.S. Sen. John Kerry -- winning enough votes to take the oath of office this week.

The fall of House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi is leading to a renewed debate over casinos, a proposal which was killed under his reign. But he stepped down from office in late January 2009, three weeks after his colleagues gave him another term as head of the House. DiMasi would be indicted on federal corruptions charges months later. His trial, expected to start sometime this year, will offer a view of the closed-door operations of Beacon Hill. He has been replaced by Rep. Robert DeLeo, who, unlike DiMasi, is a supporter of expanded gambling. The debate over casinos has now turned to what form they will come in, rather than whether or not they will come. Kennedy's death, the mayoral race and DiMasi's fall were just three stories that made headlines in 2009. Here's a month-by-month breakdown.

JANUARY: Facing a recessionary economy and the waging of two expensive wars, Illinois' Barack Obama assumed office as the forty-fourth President of the United States. DiMasi stepped down. Arroyo led the at-large field in fundraising, though at that point, most of the field had yet to fully form. Flaherty announced that he was running for mayor, via a late Saturday night YouTube video that was apparently posted earlier than planned. Yoon started to send stronger signals that he would be launching a mayoral bid. But as Larry DiCara, a former councillor, put it to the Reporter: "If [Menino] gets the votes in the minority neighborhoods, he gets in, even if the coast goes to Flaherty and Yoon gets the progressives."

FEBRUARY: The state readied for billions in federal stimulus funds. The number of mayoral candidates expanded to three: Yoon formally jumped in, joining Flaherty and South End businessman Kevin McCrea. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, profiled as she was getting her freshman year on Beacon Hill underway, said she had "high hopes and high standards" for the two-year legislative session, but warned of a tough budget ahead.

MARCH: At the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast, several mayoral contenders jousted and Menino, who had yet to formally announce his bid, compared himself to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. "We both have beautiful wives, we both had knee surgery and we'll both be back leading our team for years to come," he said. Separately, Gov. Deval Patrick tapped Sydney Hanlon, top judge at Dorchester District Court, for the state Appeals Court.

APRIL: Menino formally announced his bid for an unprecedented fifth term. Pressley, who recently moved into the Ashmont area, jumped into an already-crowded at-large race. A budget crisis, hitting cities and towns across the state, threatened 212 teaching positions and 324 other jobs in Boston. "One year in office and I was never asked to come to a parent council meeting. In the last month I have been invited to four," said City Councillor John Connolly. "On the one hand it's uplifting to see these parents so connected. On the other hand it's really tough because it's borne out of this terrible situation. But there's no doubt that the parents have made their voice heard. My e-mail inbox since Feb. 4 has been bombarded." The job cuts were later stemmed by federal stimulus funds.

MAY: Members of the Mattapan community were none too happy with a proposal to extend the Silver Line to Mattapan Square with stimulus funds, saying they were left out of the loop. The state Senate voted to keep the Suffolk County holidays -- Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day -- with Sen. Jack Hart voting to keep them and Chang-Diaz voting to jettison them. The House would later follow suit, in a split 78-78 vote. Lawmakers, approving a 25 percent sales tax increase over Gov. Patrick's unsuccessful push for a 19-cent gas tax increase, also successfully voted to restore limited funding to a number of local programs, such as the Dorchester Youth Collaborative.

JUNE: Politicians from across the city marched in the Dorchester Day parade. "Dorchester's a really important community in Boston, and to me, politically, as well. A lot of friends along the route and a lot of friends in the parade," Patrick said. The Dorchester caucus reacted with dismay to the indictment of DiMasi, who pleads not guilty to the charges. "He always was a good friend, and it's just heart-wrenching," Rep. Brian Wallace told the State House News Service. "There's a lot of stuff in there that isn't good for him. And the other thing is that it paints all of us with that brush."

JULY: Menino clashed with rank-and-file firefighters, who were largely supporting Flaherty, over a policy that was aimed at reining in overtime spending. In a “town hall” forum in Mattapan, the Menino and Yoon camps traded accusations over alleged politicization of the Boston Elderly Commission and a lack of diversity in the mayor's cabinet. City Councillor Chuck Turner, facing an electoral rematch with challenger Carlos Henriquez, alleged that the federal corruption charges linking him to Sen. Wilkerson were part of a Republican conspiracy to drive him out of office. Franklin Park Zoo officials started a furor over planned budget cuts and the possible effect on their animals.

AUGUST: A member of the U.S. Senate since 1963, Kennedy died at 77 after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. A motorcade carrying him to his brother John's presidential library made its way through Boston, hitting spots dear to his heart, like the State House and the Beacon Hill apartment he once lived in. Obama, past U.S. presidents and dozens of VIPs crowded a Mission Hill basilica for his funeral. Sen. Kennedy, who was born and baptized in Dorchester, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, with brothers John and Robert.

SEPTEMBER: After several debates where no solid blows land on Menino, a preliminary winnows the fields: Menino and Flaherty. Among at-large contenders, the list includes City Council incumbents Stephen Murphy, John Connolly, Arroyo, Pressley, former City Council aide Andrew Kenneally, civic activist Tito Jackson, Republican Doug Bennett, and former Menino aide Tomas Gonzalez. The Boston Globe uncovers a Menino aide's repeated deletion of emails, a possible violation of the state's public records law that's being reviewed by Coakley's office. Before the month is out, Flaherty and Yoon teams unite to run as a so-called "joint ticket," and dub themselves "Team Floon." Beacon Hill's Dorchester caucus (minus Sen. Hart) voted to change the U.S. Senate succession law, allowing the governor to appoint an interim person until the special election is completed.

OCTOBER: Many Democrats mull whether to jump in, but the field of candidates to replace Kennedy eventually firms up: Coakley is in, as are Capuano, Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca and CityYear co-founder Alan Khazei. Obama came to town, raising $776,380 for Democrats and Gov. Patrick. Flaherty continued to hammer Menino on crime and schools, arguing that the mayor had 16 years to fix the problems with both.

NOVEMBER: Menino won an endorsement for a fifth term, receiving 57 percent of the vote to Flaherty's 42 percent. "fter 16 years, people still have such faith in him, and such hope for the future of Boston," said Councillor Maureen Feeney, one of Menino's top supporters who was also re-elected. In the at-large race, Connolly got the most votes, and the most attention, with the rumor mill starting to churn of when he'll be running for higher office. (It's speculation he quickly dismisses.) Murphy was also re-elected, and joining him and Connolly among the at-large are Arroyo and Pressley. Chuck Turner cruised to another term. The proposal to extend the Silver Line to Mattapan Square was deep-sixed after a lack of community support.

DECEMBER: After a slip at his son's home that required him to have surgery, Menino spent most of the month on crutches and running the city out of his Readville house. He hires a new chief-of-staff, 33-year-old Mitchell Weiss. Voters go to the polls again, choosing Coakley as the Democratic nominee and Scott Brown as the Republican pick to replace Kennedy. Joseph Kennedy, who is unrelated to the famous family, is also running as an independent.

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