Newly minted Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is emerging as a new power broker in Massachusetts politics, a strong political figure who could, and probably will, provide new leadership in a new era.
He is not only heir to former Mayor Tom Menino's political machine, but brings with him his own political organization that swept him into the mayor's office. He is also a leader who has extraordinarily strong ties to the Massachusetts Statehouse, having served in the House of Representatives for 16 years..
Walsh, 46, the first new mayor in Boston in 20 years, will not only be a strong player in Massachusetts politics for some years to come, he may even evolve as a serious candidate for governor or the U.S. Senate should such opportunities arise.
No mayor of Boston in modern times has run for governor since the late Mayor Kevin White was soundly defeated by Republican Gov. Frank Sargent in 1970. No mayor of Boston has run for the U.S. Senate since 1966, when Mayor John F. Collins was defeated by Endicott Peabody in the Democratic primary.
Their defeats only go to show difficult the step up the political ladder has been for past mayors of Boston. However, Walsh could be an exception, providing he can get the job done.
Walsh, a former union official, also brings to the table strong ties to organized labor, which became apparent with the campaign money the teachers union spent on his behalf in the dying days of the campaign.
Walsh also will be able to combine his political organization with the political machine that Menino left behind. Throw in the departure of Gov. Deval Patrick, who is not seeking re-election, and you have the emergence of a Democratic Party political void that Walsh can fill.
Menino, unlike Walsh, had no political organization to speak of when he became mayor 20 years ago. Menino was president of the Boston City Council and only became acting mayor when Mayor Ray Flynn resigned in 1991 to become U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. It is questionable if Menino would have even been elected mayor back then had he been forced to run for the job without first becoming acting mayor. However, he built a political machine that not only kept him in office for two decades, but made him an important figure in statewide and national politics. He brought the Democratic Party Convention to Boston, for instance. Walsh inherits that organization.
Menino had a good run, but 2014 is going to be Walsh's year, and things will be happening for him right away because it is an election year. Walsh, like Menino before him, will control at least 25 percent of the delegates to the June Democrat Party Convention in Worcester.
Candidates for governor and the other open statewide offices will be beating a path to Walsh's door seeking his support, both at the convention and in the September primary. Like Menino, Walsh will have the power to help make or break candidates, which is why so many of them were in attendance at his inauguration.
No other mayor in modern times has brought to the office such a depth of Statehouse experience as Walsh, experience that is extremely important when it come to the annual disbursement of state aid to the cities and towns, not to mention the disbursement of other state funds that must be approved by the Legislature.
Menino never served in the Legislature, but worked as a state Senate aide before he was elected to the Boston City Council. Flynn served in the House for four terms, but was an outsider who left to run for the City Council, where he made his political bones before becoming mayor. Kevin White was secretary of state before becoming mayor, but never served in the Legislature.
While Menino and Flynn were usually on cordial terms with the Legislature, neither was very close to the power brokers. And White frequently was at war with Beacon Hill, once even calling legislators a bunch of drunks.
Walsh is different. He is a product of the Legislature. He talks the language of Beacon Hill. He was an insider. Before resigning last month, he was part of House Speaker Robert DeLeo's leadership team, trusted enough to be appointed to the sensitive position of chairman of the House Ethics Committee. This will come in handy when Walsh seeks support in the Legislature.
Walsh has a lot going for him. And while some may see him as the untested new kid on the block, watch out. He's been around.
Peter Lucas' political column appears Tuesday and Friday. Email him at email@example.com.