Reporter's Notebook: Forget this November; ’13 poll is talk of the Hall

In the cavernous Room 241, the city’s Elections Department is preparing for the 2012 election, which will feature races for the White House and one of the Bay State’s two US Senate seats.

But a few floors up, all eyes are trained on 2013.

Word trickled out last week that somebody had put a poll in the field asking voters questions about Mayor Thomas Menino, City Councillors At-Large John Connolly and Ayanna Pressley, and entrepreneur Greg Selkoe.

If, in fact, the poll is an internal one – and not a temperature-taking by one of the city’s two cash-strapped daily newspapers – the expenditure is likely to show up in campaign finance reports at some point.

But the poll had tongues wagging last week, and a blogger and political analyst for Boston magazine summarized what the pollster asked. “She first asked an open-ended question (no prompts) about the biggest issue facing the city of Boston,” Steve Poftak, the blogger, wrote. “Then she asked a question about points of view on Mayor Menino’s health (in the context of it being a potential obstacle to re-election). Then, she ran through a series of positive and negative statements about Menino, asking for the respondent to rate the validity of each.”

City Hall insiders say signs point to either the Menino camp or Connolly, if he is seriously weighing a 2013 bid, commissioning an expensive poll of registered voters. Selkoe, who says he had “no involvement” with the poll, has launched a nonprofit called Future Boston Alliance and he has compared Menino to Russia’s iron-fisted Vladimir Putin.

Asked by the Reporter about running for public office in the future, Selkoe said he would “never shut the door completely” on the prospect. But, he added, “I can say for this one, I’m not running this time.”

So that leaves Menino or Connolly, who has been a steady and aggressive critic of the mayor on education issues.

Menino supporters gritted their teeth in the 2011 City Council At-Large race when Connolly was running for re-election, and focused on making sure that Michael Flaherty would be unsuccessful in an attempt to regain his old seat.

It’s no secret that Connolly is Menino’s least favorite councillor, and Connolly’s call for Superintendent Carol Johnson’s resignation after she did not discipline a headmaster who was arrested on charges of assaulting his wife, provoked a ferocious response from the Menino camp.

And Connolly broke with his colleagues last week, expressing disappointment with a Boston teachers’ contract that he said didn’t go far enough, while most of the others said they were relieved the tense negotiations were finally over.

Add into all this steady chatter about the health of the mayor’s political machinery: His people supported John O’Toole in the District 3 race last year, and Frank Baker won. He was on a mailer touting support for District 1 Councillor Sal LaMattina’s unsuccessful campaign for Suffolk County Register of Probate.

But that says more about the mayor’s coattails than anything else. Menino won in 2009 with 57 percent of the vote, and he remains popular in the neighborhoods. The conventional wisdom within City Hall is that the mayor will run for another term.

On Tuesday afternoon, Menino was exercising one of his many mayoral duties: Issuing a proclamation, in this case declaring Sept. 19 “Knuckleball Day.” Outside of City Hall, he was joined by former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, who spent 19 years in major league baseball; retired Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro, who put in 23 years; and all-stars Charlie Hough and Wilbur Wood, who spent 24 years and 17 years as knuckleball pitchers, respectively.

The mayor, who has been in office since 1993, noted that in baseball, there is “something to be said about longevity” in the profession. “I believe in longevity,” he added.

Quote of Note: Tim Buckley, spokesman for the state GOP
“Public meeting” is a simple term and self-explanatory. But the Mass GOP’s spokesman apparently has trouble processing such straightforward words. When the plucky party held a public meeting last week, focusing on whether to adopt the national party’s platform, a Boston Globe reporter was locked out. “It was tabled. That’s all I got,” Buckley told the Globe, after barring its reporter from covering the meeting.
Buckley did not elaborate on the reasons behind his move – an act of outright silliness – in a follow-up article in the Globe on Friday.

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