Tsongas Tseat Melee Shaping Up for Would-Be Replacements

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/08/12/tsongas-tseat-melee-shaping-up-for-would-be-replacements/

By Matt Murphy

BOSTON — The summer of 2007 in the Merrimack Valley was a time for backyard “PicNikis” and evening gatherings to get the latest “Tscoop On Tsongas” over a cone of your favorite flavor.

U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas was mounting her first campaign for public office to succeed Marty Meehan, now the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, in Congress, and the heat was on. Anything to get a crowd.

Fast-forward 10 years and Tsongas found a different way to break the August monotony, announcing Wednesday that she would not be seeking a seventh full-term to the U.S. House of Representatives. And just like that, Tsongas plugged the void of late summer on Beacon Hill, giving its denizens something to wag their tongues about.

Many state legislators spent the week shuttling between the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the city’s varied landmarks, playing policy wonks by day and hosts with the most by night.

Legislative leaders wined and dined 6,000 of their colleagues from around the country at places like Fenway Park, the New England Aquarium and more as the National Conference of State Legislatures swept in and out of the city, leaving solid policy ideas, first impressions of Boston, and bar tabs in its wake.

The Massachusetts House Chamber was packed on Monday with legislative clerks from around the world who visited Boston for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Participating in a mock parliamentary session, from left, were Nigerian legislative officer Ramatu Ahmad, Ladi Hamalai of Nigeria’s Institute for Legislative Studies, and Aisha Mohammed of Nigeria’s House of Representatives. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

But it was Tsongas – and more intriguingly who might succeed her – that was the talk of the town.

Tsongas, in some ways, rode her famous last name to the halls of Capitol Hill. Her late husband Paul Tsongas held the same seat before being elected to the Senate and running for president in 1992.

But over the past decade she made a name for herself. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Tsongas became a champion for veterans and, based on the accolades that poured in, a devotee to constituent services.

Given the rarity of open Congressional seats in Massachusetts, it would be political malfeasance for anyone who has ever harbored any ambition to go to Washington to not at least think about what it would take to win the Tsongas seat next year.

That’s probably why one needs more than two hands to count the number of elected, non-elected and former elected officials said to be weighing their options.

The list starts with the cast of characters who finished behind Tsongas in the 2007 special election Democratic primary. State Senator Eileen Donoghue, who finished second in that primary, and state Senator Jamie Eldridge and former state senator Barry Finegold all said they are considering another run at the seat.

State Senator Barbara L’Italien also came in hot, quickly announcing that she was “eagerly exploring” the possibility of a campaign, and has been joined by 2014 lieutenant governor nominee Stephen Kerrigan, Meehan’s ex-wife and community hospital consultant Ellen Murphy Meehan, and City Hall Boy Wonder Dan Koh, chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, whose well-known family hails from Andover.

The Third Congressional District, thanks in part to redistricting, will surely not be a solely Democratic affair, however. Republicans weighing a run or looked to as possible candidates include Mass Fiscal Alliance founder Rick Green, Sal’s Pizza founded Sal Lupoli and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke.

It’s hard to say how quickly the field might come together given the ample time Tsongas has afforded her would-be successors, but many of the elected politicians and someone like Koh will have to weigh a shot at a Congressional seat with giving up the office or job they now hold.

For people like Murphy Meehan or Kerrigan, there’s less risk that comes with the potential for reward.

Governor Charlie Baker, who has his own re-election campaign to think about, helped kick off the NCSL festivities on Sunday, taking part in a panel discussion on bipartisan leadership, before decamping for the week to Gloucester for a some R&R with the family.

The governor will be back on Monday, but the next five work days are shaping up to be as slow, if not slower, than the past five with most lawmakers enjoying the recess at home in their districts or on vacations spending some of that new stipend money they got this year.

Energy Secretary Matthew Beaton helped fill some of the news hole by detailing the administration’s comprehensive new climate change regulations that were developed in response to a Supreme Judicial Court ruling last year that found the state was out of compliance with the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.

The court ruled that the state must seek greenhouse gas emission reductions across a broad array of economic sectors, including transportation. The resulting regulations from the Baker administration are now projected to help that state achieve a 27.5 percent reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2020, higher than the 25 percent requirement.

“We are trending in a very good direction and we are very confident that we are going to hit those goals,” Beaton said.

The new rules will seek to squeeze emission reductions from natural gas distribution, electricity consumption and the state’s fleet of government vehicles, to name a few areas. But in the environmental community, where some are pushing for renewable energy only, some don’t think the efforts go far enough.

In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate accord, attention could now shift to the consortium of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states that make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, who are said to be narrowing in on a renewal of the regional cap-and-trade pact that will set new power sector emission reduction goals.