THE YEAR IN POLITICS: Dot takes center stage

Jack Hart’s decision in January to call it quits and leave his state Senate seat was just the beginning of an eventful year. After that, the political realm had little time to catch its breath, with campaigns and special elections following, one after the other, at a dizzying pace.

Dorchester state Rep. Marty Walsh’s name was being bandied about for the Senate post, particularly since he had deferred to Hart in 2001 when the seat had last opened up. But Walsh was looking at the top office in City Hall, a decision he had made in October 2012 when Mayor Thomas Menino returned from Italy and immediately checked himself into the hospital: If the 20-year incumbent decided against another term, Walsh would make the run to succeed him.

City Councillor At-Large John Connolly of West Roxbury did not wait for the call by Menino: He planted himself in front of a high school and announced his intention to run with a platform centered on education.

For his part, Menino kept the potential candidates waiting and the Meninologists scrounging for clues. As to Connolly, the mayor said to reporters in East Boston: “Young man. Wants to be mayor. Good luck to him.”

A month later, Walsh and Connolly and most of the other contenders sat in Faneuil Hall and watched as Menino, surrounded by his family, said he would not be running for a sixth term. In January, the potential candidates had watched Menino hustle up the aisle to deliver his State of the City speech. He must be running again, many of them thought. They were wrong. By the fall, twelve candidates would be on the ballot, six of them from Dorchester, the city’s largest neighborhood. There was Savin Hill’s Walsh, of course, but five of his neighbors threw their hats in, too: Bill Walczak, who lived around the corner and down the street; John Barros of Uphams Corner; Charlotte Golar Richie, the former state representative and the race’s only woman; the long-serving Charles Yancey, who would not only seek the mayoralty but also attempt to retain the City Council seat he had held for 30 years; and Charles Clemons, the TOUCH 106.1 FM radio station co-founder.
In the twelve months of 2013, some voters in Boston went to the polls at least seven times. For state Senate, for US Senate, for state representative, and, of course, for mayor. In Dorchester, voters will go to the polls again early next year, to elect the replacement for Walsh, who will have moved into Menino’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall.

Speaking to WBZ NewsRadio on the morning after the final election, Menino observed that the voting patterns he was accustomed to “did not exist” in the 2013 election cycle. “When we looked at those numbers last night all night long, one precinct next to another one, one would be Walsh, one would be with Connolly, and it’s a different city today than it was when I started 20 years ago,” Menino said. “That’s good for Boston. Boston’s changed and the voting patterns of Boston have changed also.”

Did the man he voted for win? Menino wouldn’t say. “But I’ll just tell you the people of Boston won last night,” he said. “They elected a young man who has a lot of energy and has a vision to move this city forward and I think Boston was a winner last night.”

Following is a month-by-month look-in-brief at how the city got to that moment:

JANUARY
State Sen. Hart announces he’s leaving office for a law firm, opening up his South Boston-based seat. Menino returns to City Hall after a two-month hospital stay. He was still working on regaining his leg strength, leading a reporter to ask him if he would be ready to deliver his State of the City address at the end of the month. “You guys will see it. It will be live and in color,” the mayor promises. “Popping out of a box. ‘Wow, he’s back.’ ” US Rep. Michael Capuano, who represents the western half of Dorchester, says he will not be a candidate to replace John Kerry in the US Senate, while the neighborhood’s other Congressman, Stephen Lynch, said he will be, setting up a two-person Democratic primary with US Rep. Ed Markey of Malden. Gov. Patrick swears in Steve Tompkins as interim Suffolk County sheriff after tapping Andrea Cabral as public safety secretary.

FEBRUARY

State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, state Rep. Nick Collins, and South Boston entrepreneur Maureen Dahill wade into the race to succeed Hart. William F. Keenan Sr., who represented Dorchester in the state House of Representatives in the 1950s and early 60s, dies at age 92. Don Berwick, a candidate for governor in 2014, swings by Joyce Linehan’s home in Lower Mills, which has become a key stop on the state’s campaign trail. Outside of Brighton High School, Councillor At-Large John Connolly formally announces his entry into the 2013 mayoral race. William A. McDermott, Jr., a top attorney who grew up in Savin Hill and was working on Lynch’s Senate campaign, died after he was hit by a car in South Boston. He was 66.

MARCH
Word leaks out a Wednesday night that Menino would be announcing that he isn’t running for a sixth term, and the news takes over the news cycle, thanks to the reporting of David Bernstein, a journalist with the Boston Phoenix, an alternative weekly that folded mid-month. The Menino story dominates the cell phone screens of political junkies, as a US Senate debate between Democrats Markey and Lynch goes by largely unnoticed. On the 28th, Menino stands inside a Faneuil Hall filled with the teary-eyed to make it official. With Hart gone, South Boston Councillor Bill Linehan hosts the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast where US Sen. Elizabeth Warren jokes about the scandals on Beacon Hill that had sent several lawmakers to the Moakley Courthouse. “I understand Bill wants more people to sing this year,” she said. “On Beacon Hill, I understand that usually means going before a grand jury.” Former school principal Suzanne Lee, who ran against Linehan in 2011, says she’s looking for a rematch.

APRIL

For more than a week, the political world halts its machines and machinations to mourn those lost and injured in the Marathon bombings. The festivities had drawn a number of politicians to the finish line, including US Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez, who was running in the marathon, and state Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-North End), who was at a restaurant along the route. Earlier in the month, City Council at-large candidate Michelle Wu held her kick-off, with most of the city’s political class in attendance, presaging her November win. Campaigns for mayor, US Senate and state Senate pick up again near the end of the month. Rep. Dorcena Forry wins an April 30 Democratic primary for Sen. Hart’s seat, beating out Dahill and state Rep. Collins, who was hoping to benefit from South Boston turnout due to Lynch being on the US Senate primary ballot. Markey wins that primary.

MAY

The mayor holds the last Menino campaign committee brunch in Dorchester. Hart, the emceed of the event, points to the new K-8 schools, community centers, and affordable housing units under Menino’s watch. “It’s the people of Boston who accomplished all these things,” Menino said. “You stood by me,” he adds, as many of the candidates eyeing his office look on. “You stood up with me.” Dorcena Forry coasts to a general election win over Republican Joe Ureneck.

JUNE

With the mayoral ballot still taking shape, the hopefuls march down Dorchester Avenue as part of the neighborhood’s annual parade. Rep. Walsh has the largest contingent traveling with him along the 3.2-mile route. Markey, a Malden Democrat, trounces Cohasset Republican Gomez in the special election for John Kerry’s seat. And voters start to gird themselves for another special election due to Dorcena Forry leaving her House seat for a Senate one. Dan Cullinane, Stephanie Everett, and Marydith Tuitt, who all worked for her at various levels during her House tenure, all hop in, hoping to succeed her. Menino sits down for dinner in the South End with Hillary Clinton, who had just left her post as US Secretary of State. “Both of us were talking about our transitions,” Menino tells the Reporter.

JULY

Like orchestra musicians just before a symphony, Democratic candidates for governor in 2014 sound their first notes at the party’s state convention in Lowell. Treasurer Steve Grossman joins in, while former federal health care official Don Berwick and Wellesley businessman Joe Avellone also speak. In the mayoral sweepstakes, a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll of 600 likely voters puts Connolly in the lead with 12 percent, Walsh at 11 percent, and Suffolk District Attorney Conley at 9 percent. State Sen. Chang-Diaz gives birth to a baby girl, Milholland Harriet Hirsch Chang-Diaz, “Mila” for short.

AUGUST

In a mid-August election with just a few thousand voters, Cullinane wins the Democratic primary for the 12th Suffolk House seat. The irrepressible Menino sets tongues wagging by noting on the Herald’s internet radio station that Charlotte Golar Richie would be the first woman of color to serve as mayor, and thus make history. More interestingly, his campaign committee donates $100 to Rob Consalvo’s mayoral effort. Connolly adds to his brood: His wife Meg gives birth to Mary Katherine, or MaryKate.

SEPTEMBER

Walsh and Connolly emerge as victors in mayoral preliminary, with Golar Richie and DA Conley in third and fourth place, respectively. Yancey finishes in tenth place but makes it to the top two in his District 4 race Council race. He easily wins reelection more than a month later. Previewing the at-large race’s final election in November, Ayanna Pressley tops the ticket, with Michael Flaherty, Stephen Murphy, and Michelle Wu rounding out the top four. Eleven candidates are eliminated, and four join the top four on the November ballot: Martin Keogh, Jeff Ross, Annissa Essaibi George, and Jack Kelly. Another baby is born on the campaign trail: John Barros and his wife Tchintcia announce the birth of Jeremiah Fidalgo, their second boy. Cullinane beats two independents – Lincoln Larmond of Mattapan and Edmond Romulus of Milton – and grabs Dorcena Forry’s House seat in a mid-month special election.

OCTOBER

A tidal wave of endorsements flows toward Walsh, who is down in the polls. Felix Arroyo and John Barros are the first former rivals to lock hands with Walsh. “Felix walked in with his [policy] papers, I walked in with my thing, my policy,” Barros tells reporters. Golar Richie soon follows, with a rally on top of Meetinghouse Hill. The polls tighten as the two finalists face off in debates. Fliers from a union-backed outside group hit the streets attacking Connolly’s upbringing and background as an attorney. Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2010, returns to Boston after a stay in a federal prison in Connecticut; the Roxbury Democrat keeps a low profile.

NOVEMBER

Rep. Walsh triumphs in the mayoral race, 52 percent to 48 percent. “I can promise you this: If we set our sights high and we work together with our ears, our minds, and our hands, then Boston, I promise you, the best is yet to come,” Walsh tells a cheering crowd at the Park Plaza Hotel. On that same night, the push for a casino at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, a vote that was limited to just one ward, fails by over a thousand votes with the Eastie voters. Pressley and the newcomer Wu top the at-large ticket; Michael Flaherty stages a comeback; and Stephen Murphy hangs on. Essaibi George takes fifth place, which means that if an at-large councillor steps down over the next two years, she slides into the vavant slot. The next day, Walsh meets with Menino, who will be heading to Boston University.

DECEMBER

A month after winning one of the four at-large seats, Councillor-elect Wu unwittingly unleashes a firestorm upon herself when progressive activists react to her pledge to cast one of the seven votes in January backing South Boston Councillor Linehan for the Council presidency. The City Council votes 12 to 0 to overturn a landmark designation for 24 Grampian Way, a dilapidated house with historical ties located across from Councillor Frank Baker’s home. Baker recuses himself due to a possible conflict of interest, given his proximity to the house and one brother’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the coveted property. Dan Hunt, an attorney and aide with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, launches a campaign for Walsh’s House seat.