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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Deja vu all over again

So Marty Meehan was a little late in delivering n his term limit pledge.

The soon-to-be former 5th District representative had pledged to step down in 2000, after four terms. Instead, he will leave just short of eight full terms -- and a record to be proud of -- to take the reins of UMass-Lowell.

This will not be a screed about the appropriateness of politicians as university leaders. Despite suggestions to the contrary, it is rarely wrong to install an alum with commitment and vision to lead a university. And today's fiscal realities suggest a strong-fundraiser is the best thing that can happen to a higher education institution, particularly a state-funded one.

But for the political junkies, this is all about an open seat, something that raises blood pressure and gets adrenalin flowing. And this one should capture national attention for one very prominent name: Tsongas.

Niki Tsongas is probably the automatic front-runner simply based on name recognition and the respect and affection the name carries in Lowell, the political base that Paul Tsongas rode to the Senate and a White House bid. In a field likely to be crowded and with a short campaign window, she emerges immediately from the pack.

But her qualifications also jump out. She has been dean of external affairs at Middlesex Community College and a participant in boards of a health maintenance organization, a bank and a repertory theater. In other words, active in the community.

Her candidacy is bound to attract national attention (hey, do you think Mitt will endorse her?) Little is known outside the district about her opponents and the spotlight that will land on her will likely keep it that way. That type of attention worked wonders for Joe Kennedy is 1986, when he was not the best horse in the field.

The special election also presents a real challenge and opportunity to Republican State Chairman Peter Torkildsen. The delegation has been GOP-less since he lost to John Tierney in 1996.

While Jeanne Kangas, the party's vice chairwoman, offers the obligatory "We want the seat back," -- Paul Tsongas started the Democratic grip in 1974 -- the odds are long. While the district may have gone for Mitt Romney in 2002, it is a victim of the Romney legacy: no strong candidates.

So sit back and watch. It should be a fun ride, politics fans. But a suggestion: I don't think any campaign debates should be held at the Tsongas Arena.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that Marty is bragging about his ability to raise money for UMass-Lowell, and I hope he succeeds. He might consider, though, that his previous ability to raise money had to do with his ability to provide political favors. What's he going to offer to possible donors to UML?

As a way to lubricate the skids, I suggest that he take his big campaign fund bank account and offer to start the donation parade by donating all or a bit part of it to his new school. What better way to prove that he really cares and to show that he does not plan to leave the job to run for governor or Senator some day?

March 14, 2007 10:33 AM  

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