What are there, 16 candidates in the race to succeed Tom Menino as mayor of Boston? Or is it 18, 25, 42? I’ve lost track.
Since I can’t give you, off the top of my head, the names of more than a handful of mayoral wannabes, I obviously don’t have a clue as to who’s the frontrunner.
I will venture one prediction about this race, however. If District 5 City Councilor Rob Consalvo wins, he’s going to be the mayor for a long, long time.
Consalvo is from Hyde Park. It’s in the nature of politicians from Hyde Park to excel at the art of re-election.
Exhibit A is Menino, a resident of Hyde Park’s Readville neighborhood. On July 12, Menino will pass his 20th anniversary as mayor. He’s been elected to the job five times, more than anyone in history.
Exhibit B is State Representative Angelo Scaccia, the dean of the Massachusetts House and a resident of Fairmount Avenue in Hyde Park. Scaccia has served continuously in the House for 32 years, since 1981. And before that, he was in the House for five years, 1973 to 1978.
Scaccia is linked for all time to another intriguing example of Hyde Park political longevity, one Michael Paul Feeney.
The late Representative Feeney, who was born in Hyde Park on March 26, 1907, served in the House from 1939 to 1980, an amazing 41-year run, whereupon he was involuntarily retired by Scaccia.
Scaccia in 1980 was avenging the loss he’d suffered at Feeney’s hands two years before.
Once, Feeney and Scaccia had been peers and colleagues in the House. But, in 1978, as a result of a League-of-Women-Voters-inspired and voter-mandated reduction in the size of the House from 240 to 160 members, Feeney and Scaccia had to face each other in the contest for the now-single Hyde Park seat in the lower branch.
Feeney beat Scaccia by a mere 9 votes in ’78, resulting in the two-year interruption of Scaccia’s extraordinary hold on the heart of Hyde Park.
The 1980 rematch was another story altogether: Scaccia beat Feeney by 1,052 votes. “I think we’ve turned a corner in Hyde Park,” Scaccia told a reporter from the Boston Globe the night he thumped Feeney. “The old guard has bowed out.”
How (characteristically) polite. Scash could have said, “I just beat the old guard’s brains in.”
If Consalvo is elected mayor, Menino will have to worry that his record number of terms might one day be threatened by his protégé from Hyde Park. Consalvo is only 44, with plenty of good years before him to rack up re-election victories at four-year intervals.
When you come from Hyde Park, that kind of thing comes naturally.
FRANK RECALLS FEENEY: In his book “Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman,” author Stuart E. Weisberg has a nice little story about the man in Hyde Park you had to see for so long but who is now largely forgotten, as all of us are destined to be forgotten: Michael Paul Feeney. Frank had served in the House with Feeney. This is an excerpt from Weisberg’s excellent book on Frank:
“Michael Paul, occasionally Paul, but never Michael, was a canny, secretive Irish pol, a master of old-line politics, a real character, something out of ‘The Last Hurrah,” Barney recalled. “He was the epitome of let’s keep politics small and don’t be expanding the vote.” To Feeney, the idea of a voter registration drive was anathema, something, Barney explained, “that God would have visited on Egypt to get the Jews out.”
“You would be walking down the hall in the State House and if Michael Paul wanted to talk to you, you would literally pass a nook and hear Michael Paul whisper, ‘Barney, can I talk to you?’ You couldn’t see him, only hear him,” Barney said.