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THE POLITICAL TRAIL

On Galluccio, shadow of a doubt

Anthony Galluccio rarely slows down, a trait that right now looks like both his biggest curse and blessing.

The high-energy Cambridge city councilor -- who has three times failed in efforts to win a State House post -- is running hard for the state Senate seat being vacated by Jarrett Barrios, and he looks like the odds-on favorite. While the always voluble Cambridge Democrat talks proudly of his record in office, he has been less keen to talk about a troubled driving record that has suddenly cast a cloud over his bid to move up the political ladder.

The latest entry in that record is a Dec. 18 traffic accident for which Boston police are now seeking to have Galluccio charged with drunken driving. Galluccio rammed into the back of a car stopped at a downtown Boston intersection at 2 a.m., setting off a chain reaction involving that stopped car and two vehicles stopped in front of it.

At the time, Galluccio, who suffered a minor head injury, was cited for ''starting, stopping or turning unsafely," a violation that carries a $50 fine, but was not charged with any alcohol-related offense. ''We don't drag injured people out of ambulances," said Boston police spokesman Michael McCarthy, explaining why no field sobriety test was administered at the scene.

Based on reports from witnesses that Galluccio appeared intoxicated, Channel 5 aired an investigative report on the accident in late February. Three witnesses -- one in each of the other cars involved -- told the station that the 38-year-old city councilor seemed to be drunk.

Galluccio told Channel 5 that he skidded on a patch of black ice -- though the station reported that weather conditions that night were dry -- and that he was rendered woozy by his car's airbag, which deployed on impact. Of the charge that he was drunk or had been drinking, Galluccio told the station, ''That's absolutely not true."

In the wake of the fresh questions, Boston police reopened their investigation into the case, and late last month concluded there is sufficient evidence to seek drunken driving charges against Galluccio. A clerk magistrate's hearing to determine whether he will face charges is set for April 28.

It isn't the first time Galluccio has faced such trouble. His driving record includes two prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, one in 1984, when he was 17, and a second in 1997, at age 30. The 1984 conviction was wiped clean in 1993, when Galluccio received a pardon for that offense and a minor theft charge, from then-governor William Weld. At the time, Galluccio was seeking a job with the Cambridge police.

Should this history, plus the latest allegations, raise questions about Galluccio's candidacy among party poohbahs? So far, they seem to be doing a swerve of their own.

In October, facing strong public pressure, state lawmakers dramatically increased penalties for drunken driving. With the campaign season underway, the anti-drunk-driving rhetoric is also getting turned up -- though not necessarily evenly applied.

The state Democratic Party issued a blistering statement late last month on the ''gravity of even one drunken-driving offense." A broadside against Galluccio? Hardly.

The missile was directed at Reed Hillman, Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's choice for running mate, after it was reported that the former state rep and one-time head of the State Police wrote a letter endorsing a gubernatorial pardon for a supporter with several past DUI convictions.

What, then, of Galluccio's two prior convictions and the allegations he is now facing in a third case? ''We're not commenting," said Democratic Party spokeswoman Cyndi Roy.

Galluccio has refused to discuss the December incident or his past DUI history.

Cambridge City Councilor Tim Toomey, who wrote a letter in support of Galluccio's pardon request in 1993, said, ''I always try to give somebody the benefit of the doubt to correct yourself and move forward." Asked if he now had any misgivings about the letter, Toomey declined further comment.

The issue has yet to become a point of contention in the Senate contest, mainly because Galluccio has for months been the sole candidate for the open seat, a situation that would have seemed unimaginable in a corner of the country often labeled a political hotbed. At least three potential contenders took out nomination papers in recent days, but it's not clear whether any of them will pose a serious threat to Galluccio, who has been campaigning for months and has the support of such heavy hitters as Senate President Robert Travaglini and US Representative Michael Capuano.

At the ground level, though, even some who have been among his biggest admirers are troubled. Robert Winters, editor of the online Cambridge Civic Journal, says voters need some ''straight answers" from Galluccio.

When Galluccio appeared on Tuesday night before his local Democratic ward committee, says Winters, the candidate's stands on issues were well-received. But when the questions turned to the December accident, and Galluccio refused to address them, Winters says, you could ''feel the doubt grow in the room."

Michael Jonas can be reached at jonas@globe.com.

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