Senate Democrats confronted with Joyce queries

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BOSTON – Democratic senators making their way to a private hotel caucus in Boston likely focusing on political matters Wednesday morning received a taste of what may be in store for them in the months leading up to Nov. 8.

Democrats in Massachusetts hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate, the entirety of the Washington delegation and all of the statewide offices except for governor and lieutenant governor.

While presidential election years tend to favor Democratic candidates in Massachusetts, insurgent Republicans might seek to pick up legislative seats playing off perceptions of clubbiness within the state capitol, where House and Senate Democrats frequently meet in closed caucuses.

Outside the Senate Democrats’ meeting at the Omni Parker House on Tremont Street Wednesday, Jason Crosby, who has worked for the conservative, politically active nonprofit Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, lobbed questions at senators about government transparency and Sen. Brian Joyce, a Milton Democrat who decided against seeking re-election after his law office was raided recently by federal authorities.

“Do you anticipate Senator Joyce being here today?” Crosby asked Sen. Jamie Eldridge, as he made his way across Tremont Street with some of his colleagues.

“Why wouldn’t you know?” Crosby asked, following-up, “Does not knowing cast a shadow on today’s meeting or the Senate in general?”

Crosby also asked senators about Sunshine Week, an annual event meant to promote openness in government. Crosby told the News Service he was working for himself and gathering footage that groups might be interested in purchasing.

The Fiscal Alliance, which sends out mailers targeting Democratic lawmakers on various issues, is a thorn in the side of many elected Democrats who scoff at the group’s claims of non-partisanship. The group’s executive director, Paul Craney, recently encountered Senate President Stan Rosenberg outside his office, asking the president to expel Joyce from the Senate.

A reporter staked out in front of the historic hotel on Wednesday morning did not observe Joyce entering the caucus.

Sen. Tom McGee, a Lynn Democrat and chairman of the state party, said the caucus would “maybe” deal with political matters along with other subjects, and he cited recent Democratic wins – victories in three special House elections and the last special Senate election – in arguing the party was strong with “grassroots” support.

Asked if he anticipated Republican candidates reiterating Gov. Charlie Baker’s message to Republican state committee voters that there is a “Democrat culture of corruption” on Beacon Hill, McGee noted the governor’s collaboration with Democrats on major policy issues.

“I think it was an unfair characterization,” McGee said. McGee declined to comment on the political ramifications of the legal scrutiny facing Joyce, saying, “I’ll let that investigation take care of itself. I don’t really want to comment on that while the investigation’s going on.”

“Sunshine Week’s next week, senator. What does Sunshine Week mean for you?” Crosby interjected at one point in the News Service’s interview with McGee. McGee said the Transportation Committee, where he is co-chair, has sought to bring more transparency to the MBTA, holding a hearing earlier this week with the T’s control board.

Written by Andy Metzger