Friday, April 03, 2009

Governor stumbles.

Patrick’s Helen
by Kevin John Sowyrda Contributor
Wednesday Apr 1, 2009

Does anybody remember the Prince of Troy of Greek mythology, a rather naive young lad named Paris? Paris decides to steal one undoubtedly beautiful royal named Helen, who awkwardly enough was unblissfully married to the enemy of all the people of Troy, King Menelaus of Sparta.

Suddenly, Troy is besieged by Helen’s aggrieved husband, who wasn’t too thrilled to see Paris abscond with his wife. To make a long Greek tragedy short, the entire kingdom of Troy was quite unceremoniously burned to the ground because of one man’s obsession with pleasing a woman nobody had ever heard of.

Sound familiar?

Gov. Deval Patrick apparently rented the DVD Troy and took Orlando Bloom’s character, Paris, way too much to heart. I’ll grant you that state Sen. Marian Walsh - our modern day Helen - may not be a Greek Princess, but exactly why the governor and his staff have spent so many invaluable hours, and nearly all their credibility, doing whatever is required to please Helen - I mean Sen. Walsh - is the vexing question of the day.

A veteran lawmaker from Boston, Walsh was an early Patrick political recruit and her reward was to be a posh patronage appointment to one of the more remote agencies on the map of state government, where the senator would have settled down for at least $120,000 annually. The post has been vacant for a dozen years, and it’s been a lightning rod for voter discontent since news of the deal with Walsh was first made public. On March 31 Walsh said she’d remain in the Senate and decline the pomp and circumstance of patronage because the public response to her gubernatorial gift had created a "tsunami." As if that will repair the damage already done to the governor. This childish affair has cost him dearly and voters are telling a local pollster they’re ready to jump ship.

After pension scandals, no-show jobs, state senators being indicted, a transportation secretary gone amuck and the revelation of e-mails showing that Patrick aides orchestrated Walsh’s hiring despite their claims to the contrary, I think many of us who supported Patrick have pretty much had our fill. I thought Patrick to be the "different" Beacon Hill leader. But I was wrong, and the growing Tom Foolery of this administration is not only a deal-breaker but a bizarre juxtaposition when you consider that the governor is clearly very caring and highly educated. But his political sensibilities are clearly not well honed.

The problem for Patrick is that the average voter has become beleaguered with the governor and his party’s shenanigans at the State House, and few feel obliged to coddle a state government that increasingly resembles the political horror show of Patrick’s hometown, Chicago. As one prominent but disappointed Patrick fundraiser told me this week, "He’s not the guy I supported. If Cahill runs against Patrick, I’m now with Cahill."

Who is Cahill? Ironically, he’s the political invention of Patrick’s own chief of staff, Doug Rubin. Tim Cahill is the Democratic state treasurer and recent polling data is basically telling Cahill that if he wants to be governor Patrick is paving the path.

Cahill once faced the seemingly impossible task of running statewide against another man with the same last name. It was like figuring out a Rubik’s Cube, but Cahill’s campaign, then managed by Rubin, came out with a hilarious ad featuring Tim Cahill’s young daughter telling voters they could distinguish between this Cahill and that Cahill with the slogan "Tim for treasurer."

It was so perfectly cute it worked like a charm, and Cahill’s now sitting pretty on about $3 million in campaign funds and should be encouraged to run by the Channel 7/Suffolk University poll showing the treasurer besting Patrick in a head-to-head race.

It’s the first time in years an incumbent governor is facing defeat in his own primary; but not the first time that the catalyst for the incumbent’s downfall was a rather microcosmic issue, all things considered. But just as Gov. Ed King was beaten in his 1982 primary race by Mike Dukakis, largely over endless coverage of King having purchased lobster sandwiches for his state trooper detail (I’m not kidding), Patrick has created sufficient fodder for his opponents just by being the Patrick we didn’t really know.

For my money, Cahill jumps in and would be lacking that carpe diem thing if he did otherwise. Shamelessly juvenile e-mails amongst numerous Patrick staffers, reported in the press in recent days, showcase the unprofessional conduct on the part of gubernatorial lieutenants who should be working for the public’s benefit, and not Sen. Walsh’s. As a result, the image of Patrick as the different "Yes we can" leader has been permanently tarnished, if not entirely diminished.

By the way, I actually don’t even believe the Suffolk poll showing Cahill beating Patrick by five. Right about now, the spread would be more like ten points.

Kevin John Sowrdya is a political columnist who writes for South End News and Bay Windows, as well as other publications. He can be reached at

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