WEEKLY ROUNDUP: TAKE A LOOK AROUND AT WHICH WAY THE WIND BLOWS

Recap and analysis of the week in state government
By Jim O'Sullivan, State House News Service
WASHINGTON D.C., FEB. 19, 2010…..Think you can do better, Mr. Mayor? How’s about we try our hand at your game?

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino challenged the local meteorological community Tuesday and, because it was school vacation week and the news was slow, his remarks got blown way out of proportion, and all of a sudden people had to wonder if the mayor had hurt Kevin Lemanowicz’s feelings, or Dick Albert’s.

This is what Menino said Tuesday in Waltham: “Just imagine if you have a job like a meteorologist. You’re right 25 percent of the time, and you make big bucks. It’s amazing, it really is. Last week, we had this fake snowstorm.”

Then a few days later, almost in a cause-and-effect type of way, one of the forecaster’s brothers-in-arms, the traffic guy, trumpets that he is interested in running for Congress. Doug Meehan, FOX25’s slightly goofy morning helicopter cowboy, told the Herald that he would strongly consider a congressional bid if the 10th district’s current occupant, U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, opts against running for another term.

Delahunt’s been dinged by the bizarre Amy Bishop case, because he was the district attorney in 1986 who did not charge her with, well, anything after she shot and killed her 18-year-old brother in Braintree, then told the cops it was an accident and she was learning how to use the gun. Bishop is now accused of gunning down three people at the University of Alabama.

Three academics are shot to death in Huntsville, Alabama, and the texture of a congressional race 1,100 miles away shifts.

In the big race, to which folks are beginning to pay attention, for the seat now in the possession of Deval Patrick, the incumbent finally cranking his fundraising efforts into acceptable gear, boosters said, projecting big receipts for February. Patrick missed the event in Waltham, where Timothy Cahill, Charles Baker, Christy Mihos, and Jill Stein pitched to high tech types. The only two missing were the governor himself and his Democratic rival, Grace Ross. For the record, the field now has a former Democrat now unenrolled, a lifelong Republican who unenrolled then re-enrolled, a member of a political affiliation that does not rise to the level of “party,” and a longtime traveler in that affiliation who is now a Democrat.

Another riddle around Ross asks whether she’ll attain the 15 percent threshold needed to reach the September primary ballot when delegates vote at the June party convention in Worcester, an event beginning to accrue something of a sense of drama as police unions puff their chests about picketing the event in protest of Patrick.

Perfumed from the 2006 womb with, to borrow a phrase, a hopier, changier politics, convention-goers are presented thus far with two choices: the date that brung ’em, and the one who wasn’t even in the same party four years ago, instead functioning as a from-the-left scold to Patrick, often to the then-candidate’s quite visible annoyance.

Patrick insiders say they expect Ross to reach the ballot, pointing out that recent history does not include a head-to-head Democratic primary in which one contender did not obtain the 15 percent.

But prominent Democrats outside the Patrick camp, those hankering for an eminent alternative to reveal itself, aren’t so sure. One veteran Democratic strategist: “She may find it harder this year than in years past, just due to the fact that the governor will clearly be interacting with his base – vis a vis those who attend conventions – early and often this year. So he’ll be in tune with them. And it’s not anywhere near as easy as people assume, especially for somebody who has never run a campaign based on organization. Granted, she’s been somewhat grassroots driven, but this is old-style, ward-boss, delegate-controlled politics. Not exactly the place for a grassroots campaign to thrive.”

The backdrop for all of Patrick’s reelection efforts is the current, immediate past, and long-term future condition of state government. While other tax hikes are pending, and meeting with derision among legislative leaders, last year’s 25-percent sales tax bump remains largest in recent years, and weighs heavily in minds of voters. It’s also one tax where Patrick is on the other side of the issue from each of his opponents; they all want to reduce it now. Patrick said this week the boost shouldn’t be “forever,” but did not lay out when the 6.25 percent rate should come down.

Uncomfortable position for Patrick, who said he did not want to sign the tax boost, expected to result in $705 million more for state coffers this year, when the Legislature brought it to him last year. He’s been triangulated – rectangulated, really – between his challengers on the right, his detractors on the left, and those pests in the Legislature.

All Ross would really need to get across the line is a well-placed party boss bestowing the buss of delegates under his or her control, the way then-Speaker Salvatore DiMasi did for Democrat Chris Gabrieli in 2006, dragging him across the goal line.

Senate President Therese Murray, of course, could fit just that role this year, and notably last July answered questions about whether she would support Patrick by pointing out he was the only Democratic in the race. Now there are two.

Which is why it was interesting that a request filed with Murray’s office Tuesday morning – about whether she wanted to revise and amend her unenthusiastic answer – had still gone unanswered late Friday afternoon.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Weathering politics.

PHYSICAL ALTERCATION: Former Gov. Mitt Romney got into a beef on an airplane with a rapper? Is there video? Romney and Sky Blu mixed it up Monday, but accounts differ of who moved first. Blu was taken into custody but not charged, and later said he was certain Romney is “a good dude.” The former governor’s record with the hip-hop community is mixed, some still embittered by his unfortunate rendition of the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” which Romney recorded during the 2008 campaign. Blu, of course, has been Grammy-nominated and lost as part of LMFAO, well-known for the track “Shots.” Somewhere, there’s a devious gate agent grinning at the genius it took to place these two in adjacent seats.

A weekly column by Jim O’Sullivan, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE