The Mass. GOP’s urban challenge

The road to the Massachusetts governor’s office used to run through the belt of suburbs between Boston and Worcester. Now, it runs through cities. And that shift makes the state GOP’s bid to reclaim the governor’s office far more complicated than it used to be.

In CommonWealth‘s new issue, online today, the MassINC Polling Group’s Steve Koczela outlines the growing importance of Massachusetts cities to the state Republican Party. Koczela keys in on Boston, which has been delivering increasingly daunting margins to statewide Democratic candidates in recent years: “The challenge of winning statewide in the face of a massive loss in Boston is considerable, and growing.” To win statewide, he writes, Republicans need to stay within 40 percentage points of their Democratic rivals in Boston. And in recent years, they haven’t even been able to do that.


Koczela’s piece keys in on the changing demographics of the Boston electorate. Democratic candidates have been running up increasingly large margins in Boston at a time when non-white residents have grown to represent an increasingly large share of the city as a whole, and city voters in particular. Four years ago, Charlie Baker trailed Deval Patrick by 77 points in Boston’s majority-minority precincts. As cities like Boston grow more populous and more racially diverse, these sorts of margins become politically fatal.

The urban fault line shows itself outside Boston as well. CommonWealth noted in the run-up to the 2012 Senate showdown between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren that smaller cities like Lowell, New Bedford, Fall River, and Springfield were keys to Brown’s 2010 victory over Martha Coakley. Brown didn’t win in those cities, but he blunted wide margins that Democratic candidates typically enjoy, and those narrower margins allowed Republicans’ traditional advantage in the suburbs to carry the day. Warren countered with an urban turnout strategy that reversed the gains Brown had made in the state’s smaller cities. She won seven Gateway Cities by at least 30 points, and won five of those by more than 40 points.

Baker, who’s now making his second run at the corner office, seems keenly aware of this dynamic. In conversation, he repeatedly name-checks cities like Lowell, New Bedford, Worcester, and Springfield. His platform is heavy on talk about school turnarounds and economic opportunity — issues that would seem to resonate deeply in urban communities. A Globe story two weeks ago had Baker trying to broaden his base, and drum up support among black supporters from Hyde Park and Mattapan. “It’s no secret that the reason we lose on Election Day is because we lose in urban cities,” state GOP chairman Kirsten Hughes told the Globe. “It’s not rocket science. We have to go to places we haven’t typically gone.



Massachusetts is “way behind” in its delivery of mental health services, according to an advocacy group lobbying for more money in the state budget, State House News reports.

The Herald warns of a potential mass exodus of state judges, and notes a crush of lawyers lining up for a shot at the bench.


When do executive orders get signed at night? Evidently when city councilors introduce measures to do much the same thing earlier that day. Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, who made municipal systems improvement a cornerstone of her campaign last fall, filed a measure yesterday morning for an “open data ordinance” that would open up lots of municipal datasets to the public; last night Mayor Marty Walsh signed an executive order that will do just that. It would only seem fitting in this rush to embrace greater transparency for the two pols to now share the full back story of yesterday’s flurry of data-sharing maneuvers.   

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan will move forward with plans to layoff 60 firefighters — nearly 30 percent of the department — after federal officials rejected an application for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant.

A judge denies an initial challenge to Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera’s plan to consolidate city agencies in leased space closer to city hall, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Brockton City Council and Mayor William Carpenter reached a compromise that would retain interim Police Commissioner Robert Hayden as a consultant to a full-time appointed police chief.


Springfield’s Peter Picknelly, the Peter Pan Bus magnate, moves to turn a long vacant building into a boutique hotel, with help from MGM Springfield. His brother Paul has a 1 percent share of the casino project. CommonWealth profiled the brothers last spring.


In a column bemoaning the way political moderates are killed or crushed around the world, the Globe’s Farah Stockman slips in a reference you don’t often see in the paper’s editorial pages. “Even here in the United States, partisan wrangling has turned ‘moderate’ into a dirty name for an endangered species,” Stockman writes. “In red states, moderate Republicans get picked off by the Tea Party. In blue states, they get trounced by the likes of Elizabeth Warren.

The Federal Communications Commission is rethinking the way it funds technology in schools, Governing reports.

David Wildstein , the former Port Authority official at the center of Chris Christie‘s Bridgegate scandal, is talking to federal prosecutors.


Scott Brown will officially throw in for US Senate in New Hampshire a rally Thursday night in Portsmouth.

Ted Kennedy Jr. is planning a run for state Senate in Connecticut, the Associated Press reports.


The Navy is developing a robot firefighter that can charge through flames and smoke to attack a blaze.


A new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimates the cost of universal full-day pre-kindergarten across the state at nearly $1.5 billion.

The Obama administration has allocated $100 million and announced new initiatives that would give students credit for apprenticeships they serve in high school or college to prepare them for “in-demand jobs of the future.”

Corporate funds reshape college learning.

The churn rateamong young teachers isn’t as high as previously thought.


The maker of the controversial painkiller Zohydro, the first commercially available pure form of the narcotic hydrocodone, has sued the state over the Patrick administration’s ban on allowing doctors to prescribe the drug because of the epidemic of opiate abuse. Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer, has dramatically cut back on the number of narcotic painkillers prescribed under its coverage.

A group of Lynn residents vow to keep fighting a bid by Partners HealthCare to convert Union Hospital into a psychiatric facility, the Item reports.

Mental health clinicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center plan to post notes from patient encounters in electronic medical records that those patients have access to.

US Rep. Richard Neal, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, is trying to persuade the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to re-establish emergency and hospice services in northern Berkshire County after the closure of the North Adams Regional Hospital.


Greater Boston takes a look at Boston’s recent approval of some residential buildings that don’t have parking as one way to spur people to hop on bikes or use public transportation.

The Wall Street Journal highlights the struggles of smaller airports.


Gov. Deval Patrick and the other New England governor’s are pushing a bold power play for more clean energy and natural gas, CommonWealth reports. The Globe focuses on concerns about the impact on wind and solar power from imported hydroelectricity from Canada.

The Eagle-Tribune uncovers a 2012 EPA agreement requiring the national development company Toll Brothers to pay $750,000 to settle charges that it allowed polluted storm water to run off 370 construction sites in 26 states, including two in Methuen.


Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz says in a court brief he fired a top assistant for “insubordination,” not because he didn’t donate to Cruz’s reelection campaign as the former prosecutor claims in a suit.

Convicted murder Fred Weichel, a hood who Kevin Cullen says nonetheless may well not be a killer, relying on the good word of Whitey Bulger to help spring him is “like being a diabetic and being told your best chance for a cure rests with some guy named Willy Wonka.

Rockport Town Meeting votes to remove the police chief’s job from Civil Service regulations over the objections of the current chief, the Gloucester Times reports.


Washington Post (and former Globe) editor Marty Baron delivers the keynote at the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin.

A collection of essays and stories by Marina Keegan,a promising 22-year-old writer from Wayland who died tragically in a car accident only days after her college graduation two years ago, is published posthumously to glowing reviews.