SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 14, 2014

Benton: GOP sees hope in Senate, House

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Republicans nationwide are, no doubt, hoping that this week’s special House election in Florida is a sign of good things to come in the fall.

The GOP’s David Jolly narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a hard-fought race for the Tampa Bay area’s 13th District. Although the seat has been in Republican hands for the past four decades, both parties have almost the same number of registered voters in the district, and a majority favored President Barack Obama over the Republican candidate in both the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Tuesday’s win gave the GOP reason to hope that this might be the year they not only retain their majority in the House, but take control of the U.S. Senate, as well. Time Magazine noted this week: “The Republicans need to pick up six seats to retake the Senate and can likely count on three — in South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia — already. That leaves Democrats praying for at least six wins in eight states, unless they get lucky somewhere they haven’t won in a long time.”

One state you can bet Democrats aren’t worried about, however, is Massachusetts.

Writing on Boston Magazine’s website this week, columnist David Bernstein notes that a poll of political activists and observers reveals that most believe Democrats will retain their stranglehold on state constitutional offices and seats in the U.S. House this year. While the GOP’s Charlie Baker is given a 50-50 shot at winning the governorship, the only Republican seen as having a chance of upsetting one of the Democratic House incumbents is Wakefield’s Richard Tisei.

“Although some insiders say that midterm turnout should help Tisei, compared with the 2012 Barack Obama/Elizabeth Warren Democratic surge, slightly more suspect that (John) Tierney will be tougher to beat as memories of his wife and in-laws’ legal troubles recede.” Bernstein notes.

I’d say that’s a fair assessment of how the race in the 6th District stands at this point, although Tisei recently released a tough ad taking aim at Tierney’s support for Obamacare.

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Former Beverly Mayor William Scanlon made a valiant effort to defend the new contract he negotiated with police in a letter this week. But his own words betray the lopsided nature of these agreements as they apply not only to police officers in Beverly, but municipal employees everywhere.

Scanlon writes: “Police departments all across the state and beyond suffer from the prospect of sick-leave abuse by some officers who, after working a highly paid detail ... have been known to call in sick the next day and take advantage of their sick leave allowance. Healthy day programs create an incentive for more desirable behavior... .”

First off, “sick days” are supposed to be used when an employee is sick — not for when he or she simply doesn’t feel like coming in to work. Secondly, why should cities and towns have to reward employees for not abusing their sick leave? Better to impose punishment for such abuse.

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Congratulations to new Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera for implementing a new dress code for city workers and reviving the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

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Beware: The Service Employees International Union has made it known that it would like to extend the Pacheco Law to projects commissioned by cities and towns. The law effectively shuts private contractors out of all sorts of work undertaken by state entities — at significant cost to taxpayers.

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Datebook: Warren Tolman, Democratic candidate for attorney general, will hold a meet-and-greet for North Shore voters on Sunday, March 30, at 2 p.m. at The Pickled Onion in Beverly.