SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 8, 2013

Benton: Guns divide Arizona, Mass.

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — It appears Arizona could be ground zero of the gun-control debate this year. A shooting at a Phoenix office building last week that left a prominent businessman and attorney dead has shaken the community and must even be creating doubts within the Republican-controlled Legislature that Monday rejected bills that would have required the arming of public-school teachers.

It was good to see North Shore mayors Bill Scanlon and Kim Driscoll joining their Boston counterpart, Tom Menino, in calling for stricter standards regarding gun ownership last week. And members of the Bay State’s congressional delegation, including John Tierney, D-Salem, are unanimously and vocally in favor of the same.

But while a coalition of Phoenix-area mayors weighed in on the side of stricter gun laws, the same can’t be said of Arizona’s representatives in Washington. For some of them the answer is more, not fewer, weapons in the hands of civilians. And while legislators have backed away from arming teachers, there are still bills pending at the state capitol that would prohibit police departments from destroying guns seized from felons and make it a crime for local authorities to enforce federal gun laws.

---

Gov. Deval Patrick may have done Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt a favor by rejecting his request that he be allowed to appoint an interim state representative prior to this spring’s special election for the seat held by the late Joyce Spiliotis. We’ve heard there are plenty of people clamoring for jobs from the administration already.

Meanwhile, the state could do former City Councilor Jim Moutsoulas a favor by rejecting his appeal for a place on the Democratic ballot despite problems with his nomination papers. He has about as much chance of replacing Spiliotis as do either of the Republicans vying for the seat. One of the contestants on the GOP side, Greg Bunn, holds a master’s degree from Salem State University and has extensive experience in both the mental-health field and career training, but history has shown that in Tanner City politics, name recognition trumps experience and expertise almost every time.

---

Scott Brown’s upset of Martha Coakley must seem a distant memory for Bay State Republicans who appear prepared to concede this year’s special U.S. Senate election to the Democrats.

This week featured a steady stream of announcements from prominent GOPers saying they weren’t interested in competing for the seat vacated by John Kerry. (State Rep. Dan Winslow, R-Norfolk, did, however, announce Thursday he was “110 percent in the race.”)

Included among those taking a pass are North Shore notables Kerry Healey of Beverly, who served as lieutenant governor under Mitt Romney; former gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker of Swampscott and unsuccessful 6th District congressional candidate Richard Tisei of Wakefield.

There was a time when Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins, the state’s longest-serving and highest-ranking African-American Republican officeholder, might have been considered a prime candidate for service on Capitol Hill. But a series of bruising battles with the correctional officers’ union and a drumbeat of unfavorable TV investigations — the latest, by WCVB, alleging abuse of sick leave by favored employees — have battered the Newburyport native’s reputation.

Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.