State GOP looks to 2014

The state’s Democrats kicked off their gubernatorial hunt last week with a convention in Lowell. The Republican answer came more quietly, in the form of a meeting and conference call among Charlie Baker, Scott Brown, Bill Weld, and Ron Kaufman.

The Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan reports today that top Massachusetts Republicans huddled quietly last week to try to map out a strategy for the 2014 election. The meeting, organized by state GOP chair Kirsten Hughes, included top aides to Brown (Eric Fehrnstrom and company) and Baker (his former campaign manager Timothy O’Brien), as well as state party stalwarts like Weld, Kaufman, and lobbyist Steve Silveira. The meeting was a step toward forming a slate of candidates for 2014, starting with the party’s gubernatorial nominee.

Both Baker, who mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010, and Brown, who remains personally popular despite suffering an 8-point thumping at the hands of Elizabeth Warren last November, have been mentioned as possible gubernatorial contenders next year. O’Sullivan writes that the uncertainty over Brown and Baker’s plans has put the GOP’s efforts to assemble a slate of candidates in 2014 “in a holding pattern.”

Brown, as is his wont, has played coy and refused to rule out any run, for any office, ever. He might be playing a long game for the Senate, ducking a special election against Ed Markey with an eye on a matchup against Markey next November. He might point his truck north on I-93 and run for Senate from New Hampshire. He might run for governor. Or he might just be happy with money in his pocket, and his current job as a rainmaker at Nixon Peabody.

There’s more surety surrounding Baker. It’s widely believed he’d like another shot at the Corner Office. Weld did his best to clear a path for Baker today, telling the Globe, “I think Charlie Baker is an obvious candidate for governor and at the end of the day the best one. I’ve said for 15 years that he was the heart and soul of the Weld-Cellucci administration and, to the extent we did good things, Charlie Baker was behind almost all of them. I think he would be a spectacular performer in office, and I plan to do what I can to see that he gets there.”

Baker, however, can’t commit to anything until Brown makes up his mind first. Nobody wants to be in the thick of a race and then, days before Election Day, hear Brown chirping in the background about how he “absolutely” could have run a stronger race than you.

Kaufman tells the Globe it’s “too soon” to rush to set a slate of candidates, reasoning that, as seasoned candidates, both Baker and Brown “have the advantage of being able to wait,” and not jump into the race too soon. But too soon is also relative. Steve Grossman, the current state treasurer and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, began tweeting his cash on hand totals a month and a half ago. The GOP, usually at a numerical and fundraising disadvantage, needs to raise plenty of money in 2013 if it’s going to be serious about 2014. And before it can get serious, it needs a standard-bearer to rally around.

                                                                                                                                                            –PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

The Senate joins the House in rejecting Gov. Deval Patrick’s contingency plan for transportation funds if tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike come down, WBUR reports.

Marblehead resident Steve Solomon and Salem’s Neil Chayet are pushing for legislation to rein in metal thefts around the state, the Salem News reports.

There’s still no sign of a police report in a mysterious car crash involving Norfolk DA Michael Morrissey. Morrissey says he blacked out and crossed into the oncoming lane after ordering a pizza; he denies drinking, blaming the crash instead on dehydration, fatigue, and the weather.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence finance director Mark Ianello appears before a grand jury investigating a sharp drop in parking garage receipts, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Detroit files for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, Governing reports.  Here are the latest updates from the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.

In a New York Times op-ed column, Ta-Nehisi Coates rips President Obama for his flirtations with New York police commissioner Ray Kelly, whom Coates calls “the proprietor of the largest local racial profiling operation in the country.” The Atlantic argues that Kelly would reverse more than a decade of official Democratic opposition to racial and religious profiling.

ELECTIONS

CommonWealth tags along with Boston mayor candidate Martin Walsh for his latest “Mondays with Marty” session, this one in the uber-liberal precincts of Jamaica Plain. Four of the Boston mayoral rivals share their views on development and transportation at a forum cosponsored by CommonWealth, the Globe reports.

MARATHON BOMBINGS

A State Police photographer released without authorization pictures of a bloody Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the scene of his capture in Watertown, saying he wanted to counter the innocent-looking image of the teen that appears on the cover of Rolling Stone. The photographer has been suspended. New Republic writer and Massachusetts native Alec MacGillis tees up “Boston’s Wicked Lame Response to the Rolling Stone Cover.”

While the debate rages on over the Rolling Stone cover, officials at UMass Dartmouth, which Tsarnaev attended, and town residents are miffed at the story, which describes the school as “middling” with “an utter lack of character.”

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

After a nearly 13-hour meeting, the board of directors of the Market Basket chain makes no move to oust Arthur T. Demoulas, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The men’s fashion designer Joseph Abboud company in New Bedford has been bought by The Men’s Wearhouse, reuniting the company with its namesake founder who is the chief creative director of Men’s Wearhouse.

EDUCATION

The Chicago public school system is preparing to lay off more than 2,000 employees, largely due to a giant pension obligation that is straining the system, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

A controversy is brewing in Taunton after someone scraped off the first two words of “God Bless America” in a patriotic school mural painted by a student’s parent at the end of the school year.

HEALTH CARE

The president of Quincy Medical Center abruptly resigned yesterday after a bad spring in which he faced a nurses’ strike and a surprise state inspection that found squalid conditions in the for-profit hospital’s psychiatric ward for elderly patients.

Heroin is making an alarming comeback in New England’s smaller cities and towns, the New York Times reports.

TRANSPORTATION

With half its buses failing to run on time, the Worcester Regional Transit Authority changes its bus schedule, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

Words no Big Dig driver ever wants to hear: the tunnel “will never be leak-free.”

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant was forced to reduce its power output after this week’s heat wave made the waters of Cape Cod Bay too warm to cool the reactor.

A landmark federal study indicates fracking chemicals did not contaminate groundwater at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

More salty exchanges in federal court, where Stephen Flemmi and Whitey Bulger are reunited and not particularly glad to see other after 18 years. Stephen Rakes, an alleged Bulger victim who had hoped to testify against him but was scratched earlier this week from the prosecution witness list, was found dead in Lincoln under suspicious circumstances. Peter Gelzinis notes that Rakes never got the chance to rebut Kevin Weeks, whom Rakes labeled a liar after his recent Bulger trial testimony.

An imprisoned Plymouth Marine is expected to be released today after a military court denied a government appeal to reinstate his murder conviction from one of the most publicized war crimes of the Iraq war.

The New Yorker takes a look at new approaches to stemming the toll of domestic violence in a story focusing on efforts in several Massachusetts communities (subscription required for full contents).

MEDIA

Jack Griffin, who’s currently trying to buy the Globe with a pair of Taylor cousins, sues his previous would-be Globe co-owner, Aaron Kushner.

MIT moves to intervene in a lawsuit seeking the release of Aaron Swartz’s Secret Service file.