Hub expects barely a ripple of GOP’s nationwide surge

By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / October 29, 2010

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The Republican wave expected to wash across the country on Election Day will make few, if any, ripples in Boston.

For decades, Democrats have maintained a stranglehold on all 23 seats in the State House representing a slice of the city. On Tuesday, only five Republicans will be on the ballot to challenge the party’s dominance, allowing 18 Democrats to waltz through the general election unopposed. Three open legislative races in the city failed to attract GOP candidates.

“With only five of us running, if it’s a wave, it’s going to be a really small one,’’ said Brad Marston, 51, an organizer for the Tea Party movement who is challenging Representative Martha Walz, a Back Bay Democrat and three-term incumbent. “But I’m hoping some reporter is going to look up Tuesday night and say, ‘A Republican won where?’ ’’

GOP candidates face a Herculean task in a city with eight times more registered Democrats. Other than a quirk in 1992 when an incumbent Democrat from Dorchester failed to get enough valid signatures for the ballot, Boston has not sent a Republican to the Legislature since Maurice Frye won a Beacon Hill-Back Bay seat in 1970.

Marston and Walz are squaring off in the Eighth Suffolk District, which includes the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the West End, and parts of Cambridge. In January’s US Senate election, Republican Scott Brown lost by 40 percentage points in the district.

Walz has more than $101,000 in her campaign war chest, compared with Marston’s $2,067, according to the most recent filings with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. And Marston has been dogged in the media by details about a censure in 1997 by the New York Stock Exchange that led to his resignation from a brokerage firm and a $16,000 federal tax lien, which he paid off in 2007, according to the Cambridge Chronicle.

The Beacon Hill resident told the Globe that the stories from his past distract from the real issues of taxes and jobs and his effort to bring political balance to Beacon Hill.

“This race is not about balance at the State House,’’ said Walz, 49, who as cochairwoman of the Education Committee wants to tackle special-education costs and raise the high school dropout age from 16 to 18. “This race is about who is the best representative of the Eighth Suffolk District. My opponent’s views are out of step with the majority of the people’s in the district.’’

In all five competitive city races this year, Democrats have raised and spent more than three times more than their Republican opponents, according to the most recent campaign filing.

But there is some good news for the GOP. Excluding Walz’s $101,000, the Republican candidates actually had more money in the bank, according to reports filed earlier this week.

Even if Boston’s delegation remains all Democrats, there will be new faces filling five open seats.

The most fertile open seat for a Republican may be the Fourth Suffolk District, which encompasses a slice of Dorchester and all of South Boston, the only city neighborhood Brown won in January. Representative Brian P. Wallace, a Democrat who held the seat since 2003, announced his retirement in March and is under investigation by the state attorney general in alleged violations of fund-raising laws. Democrat Nick Collins, 28, won a hard-fought, four-way primary and has deep ties in the neighborhood.

“The people over here in this district tend to vote for the people, not the party,’’ Collins said. “With respect to the success of Scott Brown, I do not think it will carry over. That was his personal victory, not a Republican victory.’’

His opponent is Patrick Brennan, 28, an accountant who moved to the Seaport District two years ago and founded the Ward 6 Republican Committee in South Boston. He remain confident, despite the odds.

“It’s going to be close; it’s still Boston,’’ Brennan said. “But we are going to definitely win this race.’’

In the state Senate, a seat opened when Marian Walsh, a Democrat from West Roxbury, retired after two decades in the Legislature. The district covers Norwood, Dedham, Westwood, West Roxbury, and parts of Roslindale and Hyde Park.

Representative Michael F. Rush, a 36-year-old Democrat from West Roxbury, is vying to make the jump to the Senate. The former high school history teacher and Navy Reserve lieutenant faces Republican Brad Williams, a 39-year-old investment manager, who also lives in West Roxbury.

Two Senate incumbents also face Republican challengers.

Senator Anthony Petruccelli, a 38-year-old East Boston Democrat, has held his seat since 2007, representing a district that spans his neighborhood and the North End, Beacon Hill, Cambridge, Revere, and Winthrop. His Republican challenger is Frank J. Addivinola Jr., a 50-year-old West End resident.

Senator Sal N. DiDomenico, a Democrat from Everett, also has Republican competition for his district, which includes Charlestown, parts of Allston-Brighton, and portions of Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Chelsea, Revere, and Saugus.

DiDomenico, 39, served as chief of staff for former state senator Anthony D. Galluccio of Cambridge, who resigned after being jailed for drinking while on house arrest. DiDomenico won a special election earlier this year.

His challenger is Republican Barbara T. Bush, a 68-year-old retired computer programmer from Charlestown who is seeking office for the first time to “give people a choice.’’

“I say to people I believe in lower taxes, smaller government, and jobs,’’ Bush said. “They have been saying to me, ‘Who doesn’t.’ ’’

The new faces will include Democrat Russell E. Holmes, a 41-year-old financial planner from Mattapan, who will be the only name on the ballot for the Sixth Suffolk House District, which includes parts of Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain. Holmes, who won a five-candidate primary, will take the seat held for two terms by Representative Willie Mae Allen, who is retiring.

Next door in the Fifth Suffolk District, for a seat formerly held by Representative Marie St. Fleur, neighborhood activist Carlos Henriquez, 33, won a four-way Democratic primary and will be the only candidate on the ballot for the district, which includes much of Roxbury and Dorchester. Democrat Barry O. Lawton, who lost the primary by 41 votes, is running a sticker campaign.

The third Democrat running unopposed for an open seat is Edward F. Coppinger in the 10th Suffolk District, which covers West Roxbury, Roslindale, and a slice of Brookline. Coppinger, 37, will take the seat vacated by Representative Michael F. Rush, who is running for an open state Senate seat.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at