City Councillor Michael Ross on Sunday became the latest mayoral candidate to take aim at state Rep. Marty Walsh, a fellow mayoral hopeful. Standing outside the State House, Ross hit Walsh for voting for a transportation financing package that “does not address our needs.”
Ross’s targeting of the Dorchester lawmaker followed District Attorney Dan Conley’s efforts. Conley, a former city councillor, clashed with Rep. Walsh in a mini-debate on Boston Herald Radio in early August and later, redirected a question at Walsh at a forum inside a Roxbury restaurant.
Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat, has been a member of the Legislature since 1997 and at one point held down a top job in the labor community while serving as a lawmaker – two biographical points likely to draw heavy scrutiny from rivals as the Sept. 24 preliminary draws closer.
Ross, a Mission Hill Democrat, said he backed Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal, which included more revenue for the state’s transportation infrastructure.
“But last month, the legislature passed a much smaller transportation bill over the governor's veto,” Ross said at his State House press conference. “That bill does nothing to expand MBTA service. It doesn’t do enough to upgrade our aging fleet of trains and buses. And it doesn’t tackle any of the big projects that will allow our downtown and neighborhoods to grow.”
Ross, who left behind his vehicle in the Boston Globe’s parking garage last week in a bid to highlight his own transportation plan, added: “One of my opponents, Marty Walsh, had the opportunity to vote that down, and to send a message that we needed to truly invest in public transportation. Instead, he and the Legislature voted for a package that does not address our needs, which was built around politics instead of policy.”
Walsh defended his vote earlier this month. “The bill’s not perfect but it’s a great starting point,” he told the Reporter, adding that lawmakers were concerned that Bay State residents, still struggling as the state emerges from a weak economy, would feel overtaxed.
Walsh wasn’t the only one to turn aside the legacy-focused governor’s veto: The rest of the all-Democrat Boston delegation also voted to overturn Patrick’s veto and backed the Legislature’s transportation financing package instead.
But the other lawmakers aren’t running for mayor and Walsh, along with City Councillor At-Large John Connolly, topped a Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll released July 16.
Both Walsh and Connolly have taken incoming fire in the weeks after the poll. City Councillor Rob Consalvo sent in July a letter to the head of a pro-Connolly group called Democrats for Education Reform and asked them to stay out of the race. Consalvo, who has made keeping outside money out of the race a signature issue of his mayoral campaign, on Aug. 19 sent an analogous letter to Working America, an independent expenditure group supporting Walsh and based in Washington, D.C.
“If you care about Boston, please understand that our city needs a mayor who will answer only to the people, not someone who is beholden to outside groups like yours,” Consalvo wrote after Reporter inquiries. “The keys to City Hall belong to the people of Boston and they are not for sale.”
Separately, at a forum inside the Flames restaurant in Roxbury, District Attorney Conley was asked to address the billions spent on development in the city and the small numbers of people of color and Boston residents working at construction sites. “If you haven’t heard me out there on the stump screaming and hollering about hiring Boston residents, it’s because no one asked me. I mean, I’ve lived in Boston my whole life,” Conley told the audience member, adding that his office is diverse in race and in gender.
His job currently is to serve victims and hold criminals accountable, he said, and urged the questioner to ask the other candidates the same question. “Marty Walsh, for example. He’s my friend, but he’s been involved in construction trades,” Conley said, according to video posted on the Blackstonian, a website run by an activist who is running for City Council. “He’s coming here tonight, perhaps you can ask him... I’m the district attorney. I mean, I hear what you’re saying.”
Earlier, Conley and Walsh faced off during a morning show on Boston Herald Radio. Conley, a seasoned prosecutor, hammered Rep. Walsh for voting for legislation that legalized casinos and included a provision that means only East Boston will weigh in on a proposed casino at Suffolk Downs, unless the City Council and the mayor decide otherwise. Walsh appeared caught off guard by the back-and-forth.
“You are disenfranchising 95 percent of the citizens of Boston,” Conley said, according to the Herald.
“Marty is running the race that he believes he needs to run to be elected mayor,” S.J. Port, a Walsh campaign spokeswoman, said in an email on Monday. “These other candidates are doing the same.”
She added: “As a candidate when your opponents need to take the time to talk about you rather than [themselves], you know [you’re] in a good place.”
Port said the Walsh campaign’s event at the Irish Social Club in West Roxbury drew 700 people on Saturday night “and that’s the kind of work we’re focused on.” “Marty could not have been more positive about his vision for the city and saw fantastic support in West Roxbury,” she said. “He's staying focused on the hearing from residents and working on our policy rollouts.”