A hard line against colorful hardliners

The state has always had colorful figures in elected office who make for interesting copy and are willing to pop the balloon of decorum and comity that’s often really just a cover for the go-along mentality that keeps pols safely in place and shies away from challenging the status quo.

Former state rep Dan Winslow managed to do that with some humor wearing the Republican label, the late anti-tax rabble-rouser Jack Flood did it wearing the Democratic label in the House while acting more like the Republican he eventually became, and liberal Democratic firebrand Chris Hodgkins regularly railed against his own party’s speaker, Tom Finneran.

But that brash tell-it-like-it-is approach caught up with Jim Lyons. The Andover Republican was sent packing from his House seat on Tuesday, as newcomer Tram Nguyen, a 31-year-old legal services lawyer, rode a wave of huge Democratic support and fundraising to oust the four-term lawmaker.

Nguyen said at her victory party that she ran because Lyons didn’t work collaboratively enough with colleagues to get things done. But that’s not why she was able to raise more than $200,000 and win the endorsement of former president Barack Obama. She became a star attraction because of the possibility that she could take down the most outspoken right-wing pol in the Legislature.

Colorful is one thing. The fact is, Lyons was out of step with his more moderate-leaning district and defeating in today’s climate may have been mostly a matter of fielding a strong candidate with hefty funding.

The Andover vote at the top of Tuesday’s ballot seems to underscore that, as town residents split their ticket by delivering big margins to both Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. That’s not the kind of voter profile that a candidate like Lyons could count on.

Could a similar progressive focus on another Massachusetts pol who seems out of step with the state’s more moderate-to-liberal ways translate into another incumbent ouster? In today’s Globe, David Scharfenberg wonders whether Bristol County sheriff Thomas Hodgson could be ripe to knock off in this era of criminal justice reform.

The Republican jailer has stood well outside the national move toward rethinking corrections, offering instead to ship out his inmates to help build a border wall and facing lawsuits over his use of solitary confinement for severely mentally ill inmates and high charges for prisoner phone calls. He’s the closest thing we have to Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona law-and-order sheriff adored so much by President Trump that he pardoned him last year to void Arpaio’s criminal contempt conviction.

As Scharfenberg notes, Bristol County went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, not necessarily a good data point for the man he calls the state’s “Trumpian sheriff of its own.”

Even conservative Maricopa County in Arizona decided it had had enough of Arpaio. With heavy funding of a Democratic opponent from liberal financier George Soros, voters tossed Arpaio out of office two years ago, the same election cycle in which Hodgson ran for reelection unopposed.

With sheriffs elected to six-year terms in Massachusetts, Hodgson doesn’t face voters again until 2022. But if the reform wave in criminal justice is still going strong then, the state’s hardline sheriff could face a hard reelection climate.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Pot testing labs get the green light from government regulators. Next step: Actual sales of marijuana. (CommonWealth)

There’s lots of talk about whether a second term for Gov. Charlie Baker will feature big, bold initiatives, but the governor said his “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” approach can make a lot of progress if pursued relentlessly. (Boston Globe)

Marylou Sudders, the Baker administration’s secretary of health and human services, says the state needs better tools to rein in the rising cost of pharmaceuticals. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Worcester Redevelopment Authority is spending $170,000 on renovations to second-floor office space at Union Station to lure the Cannabis Control Commission to town. (Telegram & Gazette)

The state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance has notified Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia that he cannot use his legal defense fund to fight his federal fraud indictment because officials said the charges are “primarily personal” and did not stem from his job as mayor. (Herald News)

One of every five housing units in Boston has some kind of income restriction on it, the highest share of any major US city. (Boston Globe)

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke imposes a hiring freeze after voters rejected a Proposition 2 ½ override. (Telegram & Gazette)

CALIFORNIA MASSACRE

A gunman cloaked in black tossed smoke bombs into a crowded Thousands Oaks, California, nightclub packed with college students and began firing, killing at least 12 people, including a deputy sheriff responding to the shooting, and wounding at least 10 more. The unidentified gunman was also found dead. (Los Angeles Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Less than a day after midterm elections, President Trump forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and placed a loyalist in the seat as acting attorney general to oversee the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling. (New York Times) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, expected to become the new speaker, called on Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself in the Mueller probe because of his public declarations denouncing the investigation. (National Review)

Trump vowed to fight back in a “warlike posture” with Senate investigations if Democrats launch probes into his personal conduct and potential corruption in the administration. (Washington Post)

With Democrats retaking control of the House, US Rep. Richard Neal is on the verge of reaching a career pinnacle, the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. (Berkshire Eagle)

ELECTIONS

WBUR runs a town-by-town breakdown of Tuesday’s election for governor and US Senate.

Jennifer Braceras argues that both the Republican gains in the Senate and loss of the House will end up being wins for Trump. She chalks up the Senate gains to reaction against Democrats’ handling of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. (Boston Globe) Joan Vennochi also says Dems handled the Supreme Court nomination poorly — and might do best to leave it alone, despite calls to reopen the case once the party assumes control of the House. (Boston Globe)

The Salem News has a breakdown of how US Rep. Seth Moulton’s Serve America candidates fared in Tuesday’s election.

Maine’s Second Congressional District race will be decided by ranked-choice voting. (WBUR)

In a poll of pollsters and those who study polls, Hiawatha Bray says the sentiment is that the survey research had a pretty good record in the runup to Tuesday’s midterm balloting. (Boston Globe)

Some voters in Quincy were upset about seeing an anti-abortion display at the entrance of a polling place in a Presbyterian church that was being used for voting for the first time. (Patriot Ledger)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The rich get richer: Google is looking to expand its footprint in New York City to grow its workforce to 20,000 employees, rivaling the reported plans of Amazon to site part of its HQ2 in the Queens with a workforce of 25,000. (Wall Street Journal)

Marie Frances-Rivera and Phineas Baxandall of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center highlight the upside-down nature of the state’s tax system. (CommonWealth)

The Girl Scouts parent organization has filed suit against the Boy Scouts of America to stop the formerly all-male group from changing its name to just “Scouts” as it opens its ranks to females. (Bloomberg)

EDUCATION

The federal trial in Harvard’s admissions policies has pulled back the veil on some of the ways applicants can get a leg-up in acceptance. (New York Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

One winner in the midterm elections was Obamacare after voters in three red states approved extending Medicaid to low- and moderate-income people after their governors rejected expansion and other governors and legislators supporting the health care law were elected to office in other states. (U.S. News & World Report)

Both sides in the contentious Question 1 ballot question campaign say there are important issues to work out regarding nurse staffing and burnout, but it’s unclear whether there will be any real changes enacted after the mandated staffing measure was resoundingly defeated by voters. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

An Uber driver has been accused of raping a woman who rode in his car. (MassLive)

Cape Air CEO Dan Wolf says he hopes to have seaplane service between Boston’s waterfront a pier along the East River in Manhattan underway by next summer. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A new report says the number of North Atlantic right whales dropped to an estimated 411 by the end of last year, a nearly 10 percent decline in the population from the previous year. (Cape Cod Times)

Members of New Bedford’s minority community said people of color are being “left out of the process” in the planning and development of wind farms off the coast. (Standard-Times)

CASINOS

MGM, which just opened a casino in Springfield, is reportedly exploring a merger with Caesar’s. (New York Post)

MEDIA

The White House has revoked the press pass of a CNN reporter after a testy exchange between him and Trump with officials falsely claiming reporter Jim Acosta had placed his hands on an intern, a charge that video of the incident shows did not occur. (New York Times) Herald editorial page editor Tom Shattuck says Trump came out on top in the exchange with Acosta and other reporters, and he employs the president’s favorite term, complete with puzzling capitalization, deriding the “Fake News sites” for their biased coverage. Erik Wemple, media critic for the Washington Post, analyzes Trump’s verbal duels with reporters at Wednesday’s press conference.