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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, September 29, 2010

Stealth campaign

While the gubernatorial candidates slog through a series of debates that have become a sort of dull noise, a real potential game changer is taking place largely out of the public's attention.

For those of us who believe the real power in state government lies with the Legislature, the challenge to Senate President Therese Murray could affect the Beacon Hill power balance far more an any change in the Corner Office.

Murray, never one to mince words, inflamed the right with a speech last spring -- and unearthed this week -- calling the Tea Party "nutcases."

While I personally have no great issue with Madame President's pronouncement, the right wing echo chamber is ramping up their outrage.

What makes the situation ripe for acknowledgment is that despite Murray's significant advantage on dollars, the Cape Cod-South Shore district she represents is part of what passes for Republican territory in Massachusetts. It went for Scott Brown in January.

Murray's challenger, former Sandwich Board of Selectman Chair Thomas Keyes, is making the obligatory suggestions that the no-nonsense Murray may be vulnerable. It's the same argument being offered by 4th Congressional District candidate Sean Bielat about Barney Frank -- and on the surface seems equally thin.

Murray shares Frank's biting wit. But despite the power she has by being the first female Senate President, I'm not ready to call this case closed given the volatile mood of the southeastern Massachusetts electorate and the heated contest for the vacant 10th Congressional District seat that overlaps Murray's district.

She is a lightning rod, principally through her visible power and links to many of the state's toughest calls. Her ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time is considerable given her comfort in her own skin.

It's a long shot. But any upset, no matter how unlikely, would rearrange the power structure on Beacon Hill far more than any change in the Corner Office. And that's why it's worth paying attention to what's happening in Cranberry Country.

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