Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tobin or Not Tobin

The Ula Café in upper JP has become one of City Councilor John Tobin's favorite constituent meeting joints. So that was an apt location for chatting with Matt O'Malley this morning.

I'd known him before in his MassEquality life as well as his recent job running Steve Grossman's campaign for MA treasurer. Now that Tobin has resigned starting next month to take a VP slot at Northeastern, O'Malley was first to say he was running for the district spot.

Tobin's shift and O'Malley's run have caught the local imagination mightily. David Bernstein over at Talking Politics seems to run one or two related items daily. The local papers have kept pace. In fact, I got to Ula first and picked up Bay Windows, The Bulletin, and the JP Gazette to skim. Each had a front-page article on them. Bay Windows had good background, centered on O'Malley's time as MassEquality political director. The print Gazette addressed O'Malley's likely contest with Tobin's chief of Staff Dave Isberg. Now the online update talks up the additional candidacy of former councilor and mayoral candidate Maura Hennigan's brother, James Hannigan III, for Tobin's seat.

It seems Isberg decided not to run, contemporary with Tobin endorsing O'Malley. The other John, that is At-Large Councilor John Connolly, also endorsed O'Malley. The Johns are unquestionably the legislative leaders of the body and their blessings should be quite a boost to O'Malley.

Over at Left Ahead, we'll have O'Malley on shortly. If Hennigan stays in, we'll likely invite him as well. The Tobin seat is key for several reasons. First, it covers two very active voter neighborhoods, JP and West Roxbury. Second, Tobin has been tireless in constituent services and communications as well as proposing legislation.

Today was a re-framing meeting. O'Malley had settled into Grossman's campaign guy for me and now he's a stand-alone. By the bye, he claims that Grossman understood, gave him his full support and was well situated with existing staff for the race to the September primary.

O'Malley does not shy away from such topics as the JP/WR differences. Among the most obvious is JP's 50% white residents to WR's 84%. The latter tend to be more politically and socially conservative in contrast to JP. He says he has lived in both, knows both, and sees no reason for anyone to play one neighborhood off another.

While some councilors dine off, or rather get re-elected repeatedly just off, constituent services, O'Malley intends to stick is neck out with positions and platforms. He did note that he has directed constituent services, including a stint with a D.C. councilor doing just that. However, he will be talking up his planks of education, public safety, environment and property taxes. He'll join us on Left Ahead when he's ready to detail is proposals in each area.

Not surprisingly, his tack sounds like Grossman's. The would-be MA treasurer came on our podcast with a full platform of specifics and a call for an expanded activism by the office. O'Malley appears prepared to do the same for himself. The this-is-what-I-got-show-yours attitude should liven up the campaign for the special election (not yet scheduled).

We local wonks have not gotten over Tobin's walking away from his well-entrenched and active council role. Particularly as he made it plain he want(ed)(s) to be Boston mayor and that he had intended to run in 2013. Being a university VP would make that between hard and impossible.

On the other hand, O'Malley has long coveted a council seat, and run for one twice. Tobin just couldn't pass up more money, a more relaxed schedule, and knowing him, I suspect a change from nine years of a certain sameness. Amusingly though, Tobin still runs comedy clubs and shows, is an active hubby and dad, and who knows what else. He may not know how to goof off in the way ordinary mortals do.

For his part, O'Malley couldn't pass up what is likely an excellent shot at playing the newer, younger, and who knows, maybe even better John Tobin.

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