Reporter's Notebook: Positioning on abortion marks Senate race kickoff

It ended not with a bang but with a text message to the Boston Herald’s Howie Carr: “U r the first to know I am not running,” former US Sen. Scott Brown stated, ending weeks of speculation about his interest in John Kerry’s seat.

Brown’s pass on yet another Senate campaign threw open the race for lower-on-the-totem-pole Republicans and denied Democrats the electoral bogeyman they’ve been obsessed with for months.
The state’s Democratic Party had gotten a lot of mileage out of the specter of Brown entering the race, and that was evident at the recent state committee meeting in Dorchester on the night before Brown’s text message.

Brown won a 2010 special election to replace the late Edward Kennedy because he cobbled together a coalition of moderate and conservative Democrats, as well as independents, Congressman Stephen Lynch said at the meeting. The South Boston Democrat is vying for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming runoff. He could “take away that formula” from Brown, Lynch argued. “I had a pick-up truck, too,” he added, a reference to Brown and the GMC vehicle pickup he made famous in his winning 2010 campaign.

At a house party in Dorchester several days later, Congressman Ed Markey, a Malden Democrat who is also seeking the nomination, noted that he had driven an ice-cream truck during his days as a student at Boston College. After he was introduced to the gathering by former Reporter publisher Ed Forry, Markey settled into his talking points and ticked through his support for health care, gun and climate change reforms, and abortion rights.

The abortion issue will likely become a flashpoint in the race between Markey and Lynch. In his remarks to the assembled Democratic activists at the state committee meeting, Lynch called Markey a “friend” and said their voting records match up 95 percent. The campaign will likely be about the 5 percent “where we don’t agree,” he predicted.

Lynch appears to be attempting to close that gap even further: He told the Boston Globe earlier this week that he believes abortion is protected by the Constitution, an assertion that drew derision from activists on both sides of the debate, given the record of his statement on the issue. Lynch’s move was an echo of the last time Kerry’s seat was open, when Paul Tsongas retired in 1984, and abortion was also a hot topic. At that time, too, Markey was a possible candidate and his position was up for discussion.

“Each candidate competing for the Senate seat holds positions that have evolved and modified during the course of their careers,” said a Globe editorial in January 1984. “In that sense, abortion is no different than any other issue. The temptation to dismiss Markey’s move as political expediency can be resisted.”

The editorial noted that Markey “reversed his long-standing position and determined that – while he remained personally opposed to abortion – he could no longer vote to oppose the right of a woman to decide the matter for herself.” Since then, Markey has steadily maintained a pro-abortion record.

Over on the Republican side, potential heavyweights keep saying “no” to a Senate run, including former local lawmaker and Bush administration official Andy Card and former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy. One of the few exceptions is Dan Winslow, a state representative from Norfolk who served in Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration and has been a district court judge. He says he is exploring a Senate run.

Winslow is, in many ways, the anti-Brown: He bounds toward the press instead of slinking away; he’s a happy warrior instead of a reluctant one; and he’s someone who makes his own luck instead of counting on lightning to strike.

“We need to fix a broken Washington where progress is being hampered by partisan gridlock. If we continue to elect the same Washington politicians, we cannot expect different results,” Winslow said in a statement.

Former Arroyo campaign staffer to run a Houston mayoral campaign

A former chief of staff to City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo is headed south to work on a mayoral campaign in Texas. Stuart Rosenberg, who worked as a field director for Tammy Baldwin’s US Senate campaign in Wisconsin, will be managing Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s bid for a third term, he said Monday.

Parker, who is openly gay, was first elected in 2009 and won reelection in 2011. She is running for a final term this year, since the office comes with term limits.

Rosenberg, a Wisconsin native who lived in Dorchester while on local campaigns and in City Hall, has worked for former state Sen. Jarrett Barrios, state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, and District 8 Councillor Michael Ross. All are Democrats.

Rosenberg left his job with Arroyo’s office last year to work on Baldwin’s Senate run. Baldwin, an openly gay Democrat, won her race against former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson to replace Herb Kohl, who retired.

Dorchester’s Stacey Monahan taking over state welfare office

The Patrick administration last week tapped Stacey Monahan as the interim commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance. Monahan has served as chief of staff to former Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby since 2011, and the new secretary, John Polanowicz, announced Monahan’s new position last Saturday.

The appointment came after an inspector general’s report found that “errors and welfare assistance eligibility concerns” were costing taxpayers an average of $25 million a year, according to the State House News Service. The report led to the resignation of Monahan’s predecessor, Daniel Hurley.

“Stacey is a strong and effective manager and I’ve tasked her with immediately addressing the operational issues at DTA,” Polanowicz said in a statement. “I’ve given Stacey a mandate to make necessary changes to the Department’s policies and procedures, and she will report back to me soon with a plan that ensures precious taxpayer resources are used only as intended.

Monahan has also held down jobs as chief of staff to Congressman Lynch and executive director of the state Democratic Party.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Email us at newseditor@dotnews.com and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.