Menino for Senate

There I said it.  But think about it before you deny it out of reflex — Tom Menino should run for Senate in 2012 for two simple reasons:

- He’d be a great Senator, and stands on the progressive side on the issues

- He would win the election

It’s not as obvious a choice as a sitting Congressperson, but I think there are compelling reasons for Menino to consider running, and for voters to consider him.  He faces some obstacles toward a candidacy, yes, but so would any candidate, including Senator Brown.  Below I want to explore some of those reasons.

Menino as Senator

Since Senator Kennedy’s passing, we’ve not had a senator who works hard to deal with individual concerns of his constituents.  Kennedy’s office was legendary and responsive.  Brown and Kerry have a fixed focus on their own career, and the people of the Commonwealth are screwed.  A form letter is the best one usually gets out of either office.  However, Menino has a responsive operation in City Hall.  For over a year, an iPhone app has given citizens a way to connect with city hall directly, and even keep a ticket number to track the response.

Plus, I can imagine few people less likely to get trapped in the DC bubble.  Menino became famous (infamous?) for biking the streets himself when he can, and getting potholes and lamplights fixed based on his own observations.

The guy keeps his focus where it belongs: the work.  After 16 years in the city of Chuck Turner, it’s near impossible to come through with clean hands.  Despite the Globe‘s Pulitzer-hunting, the only whiff of anything on Menino is maybe some possibility of inartful behavior at some point in a zoning process.  All these accomplishments have occurred without the mixed record of questionable or embarrassing votes that accumulates around any legislator.

Still, Menino is right on the issues.  The recent bubble in headline grabbing crime obscures Boston’s steadily sinking crime rate.  His experience with education reform led to the Boston public system earning a Board Award — Boston students outscore the average American on national tests, even as the best students are scooped up by private and charter schools.  He has teamed up with Bloomberg to take on the NRA and tell the truth about the centrality in guns in making the streets of cities less safe.  Menino has spoken at length about hybrid fuels and has put in place incentives for their use in Boston.  He has defended the environmentally friendly plans of the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Menino would win.

Menino has access to funds, and organization.  Remember, he was second only to Kennedy in landing the 2004 Democratic convention.  

He’s more popular than most any big city mayor, and anybody in Suffolk County likely owes him something.  Especially in 2012 Menino could expect to crush Brown in Boston.  Remember his fearsome turnout machine — which bested Patrick’s and Kennedy’s efforts in Boston during the 2008 presidential primaries.

But there’s more.   Can you picture Scott Brown outhustling somebody who’s met 57 percent of Boston adults.  And no barn coat and truck will out-common guy Menino.  That’s impossible.  Menino is a product of Massachusetts more than Brown.

Take away the common guy, Bay State born-n-bred image of Brown, what does he run on?  His record of being Mitch McConnell’s hand puppet?  

Menino has a successful tenure as a mayor of Boston, but clearly needs to find new challenges.  I don’t know if he has the slightest interest in running for Senator, but I would trust him before most political peacocks from either party.  What say you?

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47 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I'm by no way opposed to the idea,

    but I have to say I think it's actually tough for a Boston pol to win statewide. But if anyone could do it, Menino could, and it may take someone of that kind of stature to beat Brown.  

  2. Is there any evidence

    that Menino has any ability or inclination as a legislator rather than chief executive?  That is the job, after all.

    • He was a city councilor for nine years.

      That's a legislative position.

      • Yeah, but

        what did he do?  I'm sure his constituent services were awesome - that's his thing.  But did he show talent as a legislator?  Or, more importantly, skill?  Or desire?  Or did he not really come into his own until he became mayor?

    • ok, as a supporter and friend of the guy ....

      While it was nice to see mayors/former mayors of both parties who were elected to other offices last week (Brown and Newsom in California; Hickenlooper in Colorado, Cicilline in RI, LePage in Maine, etc, most were elected to executive posts, not legislative.  Mayor Daley could have run for the Senate this year (he is stepping down after 22 years), but he took a pass, and probably Menino will too.  

      Now, do people know that Menino actually was a candidate for Congress for a bit?  Around 1991-1992, when it was uncertain whether Massachusetts would retain Brian Donnelly's district, Menino, along with Bill Delahunt and others were possible candidates for that seat.  Once that seat was eliminated, Menino returned to the Council, became Council President (following a stint as Ways and Means chair) and we know the rest. (BTW, During his Council term, Menino brought the National Main Streets program to Roslindale Square, a prelude to the current city-wide campaign, his office was well regarded for their work and he put substantial time into the work of the Ways and Means Committee.  He was also extensively involved with the work of the National League of Cities.)

      I'd be happy with either McGovern or Capuano, would like to see the Gov think about it, and would be open to a dark horse with some new ideas and access to serious $$.

      Anyway, if he ever did get elected to the Senate, he probably would eschew speech making in favor of getting things done (although he always delivers a perfectly decent State of the City speech as well as other major speeches).  I'm sure others in the delegation could cover for him on that front :)

  3. Wrong country

    This might be workable in Japan, but we are terrifically prejudiced against giving old guys a start in a new office, business or political. Amusingly enough, once they're in, like Strom Thurmond, we re-elect them until the drool and drop.

    An already 68-year-old would have awful perception barriers. Again, in Japan, it's fine for a 60, 70 or 80 something to take over a major corporation or the government. I can't see it in Massachusetts.

  4. And you are the guys who make fun of Sarah Palin!?

    Menino is a nice guy, but he has trouble putting two words together in a sentence. Suburban voters of both parties would not be impressed.

  5. This isn't April Fools Day

    Tom Menino would not make a good candidate for U.S. Senate or God forbid a U.S. Senator. The "Lite Brite" fiasco made Boston the laughing stock of the nation, and his "my way or the highway" attitude as Mayor does not bode well for his prospects as a Senator.

    Brown would demolish him in debate, and he has not looked physically well for a while now. Let Menino serve out his term as Mayor and then give someone else a chance.

    He is not as liberal as you would think, and his best friend who garnered the elderly drug contract for the City of Boston is a Republican. He goes on vacation with this friend regularly.  

    Sincerely, Wayne Wilson Roslindale

    • God forbid...

      ...the Mayor has a Republican friend!  Really, your complaint about my way or the highway rings hollow given your history of wanting complete party purity.

    • Let the lite brite thing go already!!!

      People who think the Aqua-Teen Hunger Force thing was some major black eye for the city or law enforcment ... I don't get those people.  

      • I voted "I'll give him a fair shake", but insane overreaction to phantom terrorism and spreading fear is one of the biggest problems our country faces, and Menino is one of the leaders who've shown themselves prone to it.  I'm both extremely angry at him for that destructive episode, sad about the ongoing damage to the city of Boston from its well-known reputation for hostility to creativity and weirdness, and suspicious of his ability - or even desire - to resist this kind of thing in the future.

        Would he be the Senator who finally challenges the useless no-fly list, or wasteful and invasive security screenings?  When he condones ID checks at subway stations in his city?  Probably not.  I lean towards no on Menino, but could be convinced, especially if he's shown that he's learned something.  But I'm honestly pretty scared about this fear-oriented attitude in our politics and policy, and not eager to promote politicians who promote it.

        • Menino is no fearmonger, just a neighborhood householder

          It was embarrassing that it took all day to confirm that the devices were harmless. But I don't see the event as really symptomatic of the war-on-terra paranoia-policy problem you cite. I put myself in the shoes of the responders and decision-makers that day and I just can't get too exercised against them.

          As for hostility to creativity and weirdness, it's true we're not Brooklyn or Austin or Portland. We have a history of stodgy (but often quite liberal and creative in their own rights) social institutions against which creatives have often had to rebel. But that tension has given our culture a distinct flavor which I wouldn't want to give up.

          Menino comes from our narrow-visioned, but essentially tolerant, middle class, not from the neocon fear machine.  

          • hostility to weirdness

            As for hostility to creativity and weirdness, it's true we're not Brooklyn or Austin or Portland.

            ... and also no Brookline, Cambridge, or Somerville.  Boston is surrounded by cities that are a lot better than it on these grounds.  It's not a flaw in the local cutlure as much as it is a flaw in the way Boston is governed.

            Why is the City of Boston so much more hostile to nightclubs, live music venues, and 21+ events/venues, than many of the cities/towns that border it?  Another symptom of the same shoot-self-in-foot problem.

            Boston is lucky to have the neighbors it does; that's what has saved it from destroying its economy.

  6. Wouldn't be my first choice.

    Menino's never really excited me, and he seems to get on the popular bandwagon on a lot of things.

    • I agree

      We could do a lot worse than Menino, but also a lot better, I think.  I have a feeling he likes being King of Boston - getting to do things like personally approving certain historic renovations around the city.  

      He's endeared himself to Suffolk country residents, but doesn't have a huge reach beyond that.  He takes some warming up to, and I'm not sure he'd have enough time during the campaign to endear himself to everyone else.  

      I like Capuano or McGovern.  Capuano raised his statewide name recognition last year and can appeal to working families well.  McGovern is just awesome and would clean up in central MA.  

  7. Menino

    My best friend overheard Menino saying this to his Republican friend while doing a walk through of the businesses of Roslindale Square with Scott Harshbarger. "'I'm not going to do a damn thing for that f***ing jerk.'" Nice Democrat, huh?

  8. Too old.

  9. one word


  10. Menino for ...Anything?

    I'm speechless.  I guess it IS possible to fool all of the people all of the time. Or at least enough of them.

  11. I'm intrigued by the idea, but... eh.

    I think that people, in particular the activist-y sort of people, tend to get too dragged in by the idea of "optics" and "hustle" and all that. At the end of the day, fundamentals drive most of the variation in who wins elections.

    Of course, the fact that Scott Brown was elected in the first place shows that quality of campaigning does matter somewhat, (although special elections are weird in ways 2012 won't be) but the way you put it, devoting practically half of the post to how well he can "hustle," really puts too much weight on the idea. As long as the candidate meets the minimum of being politically competent enough to not completely screw up the election, you should really focus on electing a candidate who is most reasonable on policy and not get too distracted by trying to outhustle the Republicans.

    At the same time, I'd like it if he decided to throw his hat in the ring for the primary. I think there'd probably be people better suited to the seat, but I think he'd add an interesting perspective which is worth being thrown into the primary. (Although Capuano was mayor of Somerville, and he'll probably run, so we already have someone with experience filling potholes.)

  12. Okay

    So pretty much nobody was a reason to say no, other than....they can't imagine it.  I do appreciate the one or two people who had a substantive response rather than staying inside their own box of assumptions and preformed impressions.

    Menino's too old at 68?  He's younger than Nancy Pelosi. Niki Tsongas was 5 years younger when first elected.  He'd be in the 30 percentile, agewise.

    Poor spoken speech?  Barney Frank has that, too...and got re-elected running away.

    Menino hasn't shown much skill as a legislator...except that he more or less makes up the rules of running the city of Boston as much as he executes them.  

    As for the excitement thing, Sarah Palin is exciting to a lot of people.  Excitement is overrated.

    Perhaps the unwillingness of voters to explore their own preconceptions of Menino is a good reason for him to run.  But it's not a strong comment on the electorate.

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • $quot;Menino hasn't shown much skill as a legislator$quot;

      But that's precisely my point.  As a Senator, he won't get to do the "running the city" thing.  He'll be #100 in a body of big egos that do business differently from the way he does.  He won't get to run anything.  Why, at age 68, would he want that?

      Menino is about getting stuff done.  That's executive.  Yeah, the City Council isn't exactly a powerhouse legislative branch.  That's gravy for him.  Can't replicate that in the US Senate - not even close.  So ... what's the attraction for him?

    • Mike Capuano is a better choice

      Today, two years before the election, I am focused on "who is the best candidate".

      I think Mike Capuano is head-and-shoulders above Tom Menino. If we choose somebody other than Mike Capuano (which I'm open to), I think it should be somebody better than Mike Capuano.

      Tom Menino does not make that cut. I can't imagine a scenario in which he would.

  13. Menino the survivor

    Not my favorite politician. Am I the only one here who actually lives in Boston? Sometimes it seems that way. At least in my neck of the woods, Menino's stock is way down, through his ham-handed attempt to shut down our library.

    However as a general model he is a great example to all you Senator Wannabees. He talks left and plays right. He has the support of suburban progressives who want their agenda reflected in city government, but he doesn't tax near as much as he talks.

    While the schools may have collected the Broad Prize, in truth they are a wreck. They have become a conduit for tax money to come into the city, through a pseudo-medical treatment of poverty in the form of special needs education. I am not saying there are no special needs students in Boston, but 20% of the school population? Special needs education now takes up as much money as regular teaching in the school budget. It's not a model you can transfer, and it's not really working here either, as anybody can see from the steadily shrinking number of students.  

  14. The only person out there more incapable of stringing a cherent sentence together than Brown.

  15. coherent!

  16. It would be interesting to hear what kinds of things

    Menino would say about national issues, especially foreign policy stuff. Where would Menino be in terms of preemptive wars, torture of terror suspects, and the like? Frankly I have no idea. I do think that some of his appeal to city residents has been his lack of ambition beyond mayor, which has allowed him to learn that particular job inside and out. Is he popular in the suburbs, Western Mass, etc? Who would even know the answer to that?

    • I have to laugh or else I'd cry

      As someone active at the community level here in Boston, I can assure you that Tommy is very keen on pre-emptive warfare...  against pesky constituents, that is.

  17. Not Seeing It

    Not that he necessarily would make a bad Senator, really. However...

    In most of the non-Boston parts of the state, people will forever associate "Mayor of Boston," whoever occupies it, with political scandal. They may not even be able to articulate any that involved Menino or whoever the mayor happens to be at any given time. To a lot of suburbanites or even residents of smaller cities, "big city mayor," especially if they have a long tenure, means "crooked" or "political hack."

    Interestingly enough, in recent years we've seen both Ed Rendell (Philadelphia) and Martin O'Malley (Baltimore) each get elected and re-elected as governors of their respective states. Those guys, however, were younger and somewhat more dynamic as personalities.

    In the case of Menino, I'd be worried that, as someone said above, his inarticularity would be a big obstacle against any attempt to move up to statewide office. I can't picture him coming across well in a debate with Scott Brown.

    (I find it odd that I'm almost 40 years old and Boston's had only three mayors in my lifetime. Massachusetts has had eight governors - nine if you count Dukakis twice - and the USA has had eight Presidents in the same stretch.)

  18. Menino will advocate for:

    "Mental detectors in schools" and if he is elected to Senate he will "ensure a smooth transmission" Maybe he will hire Don Gillis for his staff too.

    • Decent but there are better

      I think you listen a few good reasons why this makes sense but here are a few you haven't considered:

      A) He totally doesn't want the job

      Being Mayor of a big city is totally awesome, having worked for Mayor Daley and interacted with Mayor Menino Governors and Presidents have pesky legislatures to deal with, but City Councils are powerless all over the country and Mayors have eliminated school committees. Bloomberg even got no term limits for himself. These guys can get anything done and truly get to behave like Kings.

      B) He would be bad at the job

      He is a great Mayor since he has the skills to connect one on one with constituents, he knows everyone in Boston, he knows how to make deals with interest groups, and he has built an impressive machine to help him. You can't do that in the Senate, you are one out of a 100 in a seniority based system. He might have two-three terms before he dies or retires, not enough time to get Teddy K kind of influence. Don't see him compromising or negotiating too well.

      C) Don't think he can win

      Perception is everything in elections, and the short, round, and unhealthy Menino would just look bad next to Brown. And Brown does sound a lot better, public speaker and giving speeches, what a Senator primarily does, has never been his strong suit.

      I was with you Sabutai defending Mennino and want him to be Mayor for Life, but a Senator he does not make.

      Tim Murray is a younger Menino, has that personal touch, knows almost everyone in Worcester, a more electorally important city than Boston, and has that common, made in Massachusetts touch. Also a solid progressive.

      Besides we all know Mennino would make a better President

      • do worcester votes count 4 times as much?

        If they do, murray is even more corrupt than I thought. If they don't, boston is more important. It's not like swing states. Increasing turnout in super democratic boston is easily worth more than swinging a few votes in worcester. If you can increase boston turnout just 10%, that's as good as a 35% swing in worcester. Coakley for senate won worcester bu 5. Grossman by 10. Bump in the high 20s. Patrick murray margin was 33 or 34. Murray just can't swing enough votes to make up for a turnout advantage in boston. I think menino is a terrible candidate due to the kineavy thing, but still better than murray.

        • Okay, but

          ..isn't that assuming a Murray/Menino primary? What if Murray's the Democratic candidate? (And yes, I'm from Worcester ;) )

        • Confused

          Using your logic than New York City and Chicago are the key to Obama's victory in 2012. Using your logic Coakley should be senator. There are no new votes to be won in Boston, it will vote reliably 70-80% Democratic and net big turnouts. Its a presidential year as well. Meanwhile other cities that used to be in the Democrats pocket, like Worcester, Lowell, Lawrence, Fall River, and Springfield all went heavily for Brown. Brown got trounced in Boston but he still won the state. The battle is in the suburbs and the other cities. Murray will do fantastic there, not so sure about Mumbles.  

          • At least some of those cities...

            ...did return to the Democratic column this week.

          • what?

            Presidential elections have the electoral college. Elections for senate don't. Nyc is irrelevant because ny state is irrelevant. There is no such thing as a swing city. One vote in worcester is worth as much as 1 in boston. A better comparison would be heavily dem cleveland vs gop cincinnati. An extra vote for the dem coming from either place does just as much good as the other in winning a prez election.

  19. I'm not sure which is more horrifying:

    the idea of Menino speaking in the well of the Senate, or the fact that you're not joking.

    One upside though - I'm sure Tommy'd  take Kineavey and the rest of his Praetorian Guard with him to Washington.

  20. Please...

    Menino would guarantee Brown's re-election. And we all thought Martha was a weak candidate??? I'm not sure if I could dream up a worst candidate than Mumbles. Imagine him trying to get votes in the towns around 128 and 495. He would get hammered.

  21. Okay, I get it

    This idea is clearly a non-starter.  Somebody as old as Nancy Pelosi, or with the speaking impediments of a Barney Frank, clearly doesn't belong in Congress.

    I'm not a solid backer of this idea, but it is unfortunate in my view that somebody with a strong record of public service is thrown out so easily for superficial irrelevancies, whereas the latest shiny thing (He's an organizer!  She's on the tv!  He just moved to the state!) is embraced.  

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • Your idea wasn't bad

      whereas the latest shiny thing (He's an organizer!  She's on the tv!  He just moved to the state!) is embraced.  

      No doubt this has been a massive problem, especially among progressives. I would argue its because some of them are a lot less engaged with the state legislature and local politics and thus presume outsiders or big names are better.

      Here is a new rule: No CEOs, No political neophytes, No Kennedys, No Celebs.

      Not that hard to follow.

      Mumbles (which I view as a term of endearment) has been a fine public servant and one of the city's and the nations finest Mayors. I just don't think he wants to be Senator, would excel at that job like he has at being Mayor, or is the best candidate.

      A bricks and mortar politician with a made-in-Massachusetts pedigree, accent, and appeal to working people, certainly. Murray has that in spades. Your thoughts on Murray?

      • Experience

        Frankly had I not been blinded by Hillary hatred I would've gone for her, she would not have been blindsided by the uglier side of the Republican Party like Obama did, and she and Bill would have kept our majorities. As much as I dislike aspects of their personal lives and their character, they are tremendously affective politicians which Obama has not been. Consider this my mea culpa for all the Hillary supporters I bashed. And she has been an excellent Secretary of State.

  22. Who says he wants to?

    I don't believe that Menino wants to be anything other than the Mayor of Boston. He clearly really enjoys the job and his connection to the City. I really can't imagine he would want to give that up to go to Washington.

    • Heck

      If a loser like Mitch Daniels can be "drafted", why not somebody who didn't contribute to a global economic crash?

      sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  23. I don't know if anyone else noticed but,

    POLITICO picked this up as well.

    "Some in the party still hope Vicki Kennedy will consider the race, and even longtime Boston Mayor Tom Menino was recently floated as a candidate online. (His office didn't totally shoot down the idea, saying Menino "appreciates the recognition" but "remains focused on being mayor."

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