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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Beacon Hill surge

Deval Patrick is gearing up for a surge to reclaim Beacon Hill.

On the eve of his 100th day in office, Patrick has swapped a hardball player for an administrator, bringing campaign adviser Doug Rubin aboard as chief of staff after Joan Wallace-Benjamin engineering a face-saving transition back to the Home for Little Wanderers.

The move is both symbolic and substantive, swapping an earnest head of a not-for-profit social service agency unfamiliar in the ways of Beacon Hill with some who undoubtedly knows where some bodies are buried. Think John Sasso.

Rubin served as a top adviser to the Patrick campaign after cutting his teeth as a consultant to some ballot questions and as adviser and First Deputy Treasurer to Tim Cahill. His departure from that office came after some eyebrows were raised over the signing of confidentiality agreements with terminated employees -- not including Rubin.

In short, Rubin knows how to play the game, something Wallace-Benjamin, through no fault of her own, did not. That fact becomes crucial in light of the House Ways and Means Committee's decision to treat Patrick like a Republican governor -- ignore his budget and create their own version that omits the corporate tax loophole reforms Patrick has championed.

If Sal DiMasi threw down the gauntlet with that budget, Patrick has just picked it back up, slapped DiMasi across the check and challenged him to a duel -- with someone who knows how to wield a sword.

But rather than taking offense, my guess is Sal may be saying privately that Patrick is a faster learner than he appeared at first.

With the addition of Rubin and communications aide Joe Landolfi, Patrick has seriously raised the Beacon Hill experience level in the Corner Office.

And by adding folks who know how to play in the trenches, he has enabled himself to continue to take the high road -- support tax fairness, slam Don Imus and proclaim his belief in civic engagement -- while others do the slogging for him.

That should make Day 100 seem a little sweeter than it might have two months ago.

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