Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Dec. 27, 2012

If 2008 was about the rise of Barack Obama, then 2012 was the reprise. He will be sworn in for a second term next month, after facing off against and defeating Mitt Romney for the presidency.

While Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he quipped that he was “the only red dot in an entirely blue state.” On election night, that was apparent in his home state, when the Belmont Republican managed to pick up only 39 percent of the vote. In deep-blue Boston, he received 19 percent.

With the president at the top of the ticket, Democrats romped. The wave swept in Elizabeth Warren, a consumer advocate and Cambridge Democrat, and took out US Sen. Scott Brown, a Wrentham Republican who had in 2010 surprised the state’s political establishment by winning a special election to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Here are some highlights of what happened in Boston politics in 2012.

Former Mayor Kevin White, who oversaw Boston’s rebirth and a tumultuous busing crisis, dies at age 82. At his annual State of the City address, Mayor Thomas Menino launches the first major revamp of the city’s school assignment system in over two decades. The mayor, pushing for a return to schools closer to students’ homes, said, “We won’t have the schools our kids deserve until we build school communities that serve them well.” State Sen. Jack Hart (D-South Boston) moves to the No. 4 slot when Senate President Therese Murray taps him as assistant majority leader. Hart was appointed to the position after state Sen. Steven Tolman (D-Brighton) decamped for a job with the Massachusetts branch of the AFL-CIO.

Menino announces the advisory team working on a proposal for the new school assignment system. The team includes current and former Boston parents, a former city councillor, academics, and officials from the private and nonprofit sectors. Local Dorchester activists fret about Warren, a Harvard University professor turned Senate candidate, and what they call a lecturing demeanor. The St. Mark’s Area Civic Association voices support for keep an eventual referendum on a Boston casino confined to the ward in which the gambling facility would be located.

The March 6 presidential primary features a local intra-party squabble: Craig Galvin, a Dorchester Democrat, faces off against state Rep. Nick Collins of South Boston in a race for a state committee post. Collins wins the post, which opened up after Sen. Hart declined to run for a seat on the committee. In a campaign finance violations case, a Superior Court judge orders former state Rep. Brian Wallace and his former campaign treasurer to pay fines over the course of a probation period of several years. At a community forum, Councillor Charles Yancey feels the wrath of House Speaker Robert DeLeo when Yancey angers the Winthrop Democrat during a discussion about funding for prisons and schools.

Menino submits a city spending plan to the City Council that increases by $60 million, to $2.45 billion, and focuses on road improvements, local parks, playgrounds, and community centers. Menino also sets up a casino advisory committee, with Brian Leary, a lawyer and former television anchor, as its head.

Dorchester residents start seeing some familiar faces in the television ads for the Senate race. In Warren’s ads, Savin Hill’s Catherine O’Neil makes an appearance, while the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester’s Savin Hill campus makes an appearance in a Brown ad.

Warren easily wins the Democratic nomination at the party’s annual convention in Springfield, and then heads back to Boston for the Dorchester Day Parade the next day. District 3 Councillor Frank Baker announces that he has moved to the “undecided” column about whether there should be a citywide vote on a potential East Boston casino, saying he wants to see what Suffolk Downs can offer the city. Yancey turns mayoral lifesaver, grabbing the Menino as he missed a step at a ribbon-cutting in Dorchester. “This is a first: Charles Yancey saved my life,” Menino quipped. The City Council unanimously signs off on Menino’s fiscal 2013 budget.

State Rep. Carlos Henriquez enters a not guilty plea in a Roxbury courtroom after he is charged with assaulting a young woman and holding her against her will in a rented car. City Councillor At-Large John Connolly, the chair of the Education Committee, calls for the resignation of Boston School Superintendent Carol Johnson after a Boston Globe report on her poor handling of an O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science official, who had been arrested on domestic violence charges. Backed by Menino, Johnson apologizes and says she regretted not disciplining the official.

Gov. Deval Patrick signs a controversial bill, sometimes called “three strikes,” which eliminates parole for habitual violent felons, eases some sentences for drug offenders, and reduces the “school zone” used by prosecutors to enhance sentences to 300 feet from 1,000 feet. Opponents say the bill will disproportionately affect minorities. State House lawmakers representing Dorchester manage to set aside $3.5 million for sidewalk repairs from the intersection of Granite Avenue and Gallivan Boulevard to Morrissey Boulevard at UMass Boston.

Bruce Bolling, the first African American elected City Council president, dies from prostate cancer at age 67. Voters went to the polls in a rare Thursday primary, pulling the lever largely for incumbents. East Boston Councillor Sal LaMattina, angling for the Suffolk Register of Probate job, loses the county-wide race and the city of Boston to fellow East Bostonian Patricia Campatelli. Menino endorses Warren and joins her at a post-debate rally in Roslindale. The school department releases five plans changing the city’s school assignment system. Menino sends city councillors back to the drawing board, rejecting the redistricting map they approved, which moves around voting precincts within the council district. Weeks later, he rejects a second map from them, saying it has the same “packing” issues as the first map: A heavy concentration of people of color in District 4.

The council hopes the third try is the charm, sending Menino a third map. The proposal, which earns Menino’s signature, shifts much of Mattapan to District 5, represented by Rob Consalvo. Yancey picks up part of Lower Mills, but rails against his colleagues for making the changes. Menino cuts a vacation trip to Italy with his wife short, returning to Boston and checking himself into a hospital. He’s diagnosed with a virus, a blood clot and later, with Type 2 diabetes, and a compression fracture.

Obama wins another term in the White House, while Warren gets a six-year term in the Senate. Brown, who lost to Warren by a 54-46 margin, hints that he may return. Voters signed off on a ballot initiative bringing medical marijuana to the Bay State. Menino’s school assignment advisory committee receives an extension until January to continue its work in overhauling the current three-zone system. Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray expresses interest in running for governor in a speech to Boston business leaders. One of Menino’s doctors and his press secretary hold a press conference, updating the media on the mayor’s condition. “He will rebound from this,” Dr. Charles Morris said.

Obama taps Kerry for Secretary of State, setting off a chain reaction throughout Massachusetts politics. Gov. Patrick picks Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral as his new public safety chief, opening up a position that some view as a political prize. South End resident Michelle Wu announces a City Council at-large bid.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.