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December 28, 2013

A Lovely year on Beacon Hill

With one year on the job, Sen. Joan Lovely has found some surprises, lots of work

SALEM — You might think the Salem City Council is a place where issues are hard-fought and things get personal. And you might think it a suitable proving ground for someone headed to bigger battles on Beacon Hill.

When Sen. Joan Lovely took her seat under the golden dome, however, she found an environment that was tough but in a different way.

“The biggest adjustment for me — and I didn’t see it coming — was dealing with partisan politics,” she said. “... I really didn’t appreciate how decisions are made because of party affiliation.”

For all its combativeness, the City Council is nonpartisan. There, Lovely was often seen as a soothing voice, working to unite fellow councilors.

After a year on Beacon Hill, she may have found a similar role in the Senate. Though Republicans represent a small minority, she notes, “We have really terrific Republicans.” She singles out North Shore colleague Bruce Tarr of Gloucester. “Republicans bring in some good ideas.”

It might just be good politics to say so. Lovely beat two veteran Democrats, former Peabody Rep. John Slattery and former Governor’s Councilor Mary Ellen Manning, last year to succeed the retiring Fred Berry. She dubs herself “a fiscal conservative but social liberal.”

Recently, she joined Tarr in voting to repeal a measure allowing the gasoline tax to rise with inflation. The amendment was easily defeated. And Lovely all but apologizes for her earlier vote supporting the tax last summer. “I did not want it indexed to inflation,” she said, but the tax was part of a package that included things she wanted to support.

Lovely doesn’t believe her fiscally conservative votes have alienated the Senate’s Democratic leadership, however. When she opposes her party’s position, “I always let the leadership know. If they’re requesting a certain vote ... I tell them I can’t be with you.”

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