Lawmaker opts not to run again

South Boston’s Rep. Wallace cites health and family issues

By Meghan E. Irons
Globe Staff / March 3, 2010

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State Representative Brian P. Wallace became the latest in a growing list of legislators bowing out of races this year, telling his South Boston constituents yesterday that family issues would preclude him from seeking another term.

The 60-year-old Democrat, who has held the Fourth Suffolk district seat since 2003, was facing a number of Democrats lining up to challenge him in the primary. And he confirmed yesterday that his campaign is cooperating with an inquiry by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

But he said those were not key factors in his decision and that he wanted to spend more time with his family and focus on writing. In an interview yesterday, Wallace also acknowledged unspecified health issues that have plagued him. He said that he battled depression off and on and that he had missed some neighborhood meetings. He declined to say whether that was the condition that influenced his decision.

“When it’s time, you know,’’ said Wallace. “I didn’t feel it in my stomach to do it anymore. If you don’t have a fire in your belly, then you really shouldn’t do it.’’

Several friends said that the prospect of a tough campaign ahead left Wallace feeling he did not have the interest or the energy to battle for another term.

Wallace, who had explored leaving the Legislature before, angling at one point to get a job in the Romney administration, told constituents of his decision yesterday in a long letter posted on a neighborhood website. He thanked supporters and said he was proud of his work on mental health and substance abuse issues, and for pushing for expanded gambling in the state.

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your friendship, support, and guidance and for the privilege of representing you,’’ he wrote.

Wallace yesterday declined to discuss details of the inquiry by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, saying only that he is addressing questions and has turned over documents.

“We are working with them on some stuff,’’ he said. “There is nothing nefarious there. This certainly played no part in my decision.’’

The campaign finance office declined to comment.

In acknowledging his battles with depression, Wallace said he had fallen ill over Thanksgiving and had missed some neighborhood meetings.

“I was not deathly sick,’’ he said. “I just had some issues, that’s all.’’

Several South Boston residents and local politicans lined up in support of Wallace yesterday. State Senator Jack Hart said he has mixed feelings about Wallace’s impending departure Dec. 31 but that Wallace had to decide what is best for himself and his family.

“I’m sad that he’s not going to be around,’’ Hart said. “But I’m happy that he’s chosen to pursue another avenue of his life.’’

Michael Flaherty, a former city councilor and mayoral candidate, hailed Wallace for advocating for South Boston youths and for tackling thorny issues of mental health and substance abuse in the neighborhood.

“His dedication to youths is unmatched,’’ said Flaherty, who described himself as busy building his law practice and said he will not run for the Fourth Suffolk district seat.

Names already in the ring to run for Wallace’s seat include Michael McGee, Jacob Bombard, and Mark McGonagle, all Democrats; Patrick J. Brennan, a Republican; and Kenneth Ryan, an independent, according to the state elections division.

“As far as Brian is concerned, I would like to thank him for his years in this community,’’ said McGonagle, a South Boston resident who put his name in the running only hours after Wallace’s announcement. “I feel that it is time for a new generation of leadership in the Fourth Suffolk district.’’

South Boston’s city councilor, Bill Linehan, said the vacancy leaves the door open for new blood.

“South Boston is a very political town, and there are always ambitious people who are going to participate in the process,’’ said Linehan, who said Wallace told him Monday about his decision. “It’s a vehicle for all of us.’’

Wallace, a grandfather who has three children living at home, ages 6, 19, and 23, said he wants to devote more time to his family.

“It’s sad, because I love this job,’’ he said. “But I also love my grandson, my daughter, my sons, and my wife. I just love them more than I love this job.’’

Frank Phillips of the Globe staff contributed to this story. Meghan Irons can be reached at