Over the weekend Republican State Representative Dan Winslow had a very interesting take on the conflict between House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Representative Charles Murphy that sent Murphy from leadership to the back bench. According to the State House News Service, Winslow told WCVB-Channel 5′s On The Record that DeLeo’s sacking of Murphy and strengthening of the Greater Boston presence in leadership shows an urban-suburban split in the house. It may be that DeLeo’s tilt toward urban lawmakers is extreme but the legislature has long been the urban branch of state government and the governorship is the suburban branch.
Let’s look at the top dogs in the legislature recently. Robert DeLeo is from Winthrop in Suffolk County. Sal DiMasi was from Boston’s North End. Thomas Finneran represented Dorchester. Charles Flaherty hailed from Cambridge — three-decker North Cambridge, not Brattle Street Cambridge. Everett had no more devoted son than George Keverian. Thomas McGee called Lynn home. Senate President Therese Murray represents the Plymouth and Barnstable district, grant you, but she grew up in Mission Hill and Dorchester. Her predecessor Robert Travaglini was from East Boston. Thomas Birmingham represented Chelsea. William M. Bulger commuted in from Southie. These folks were raised in Massachusetts, most of them not far from the building they would come to dominate. When you look at their educational backgrounds you see Boston College and BC Law, Northeastern, Boston State, UMassBoston. The legislature is the urban branch. The culture is based upon relationships and longevity in the institution.
Now for the governors. Deval Patrick lives in Milton. He was raised in Chicago and came to Massachusetts to attend Milton Academy. Then it was Harvard and Harvard Law for Patrick. Mitt Romney of Belmont grew up in Michigan and came here to attend Harvard Business and Law Schools. Acting Governor Jane Swift was from the Berkshires, and Governor Paul Cellucci came from Hudson and attended BC and BC Law. Governor William Weld spent his formative years in New York then came here for Harvard and Harvard Law. He resided in Cambridge, but not the Cambridge of Charlie Flaherty. Michael S. Dukakisis is a lifelong resident of the suburb of Brookline and also a Harvard Law grad. So none of our recent governors were urban. Three of our last four governors (excluding Swift) are from out of state. Governor is a job for Harvard educated blow-ins who live in the suburbs.
Rep. Winslow may be right and the urban-suburban split could contribute to the change he hopes for in the house. I wrote on that topic the other day in DeLeo, Murphy, and the Next Speaker. But there may be another way to look at our two party system in Massachusetts. The Governor Party is managerial, suburban, Harvard educated, and open to folks who come here from other states for their undergraduate and graduate educations. The Legislature Party is local, urban, individualistic, goes to BC or other local historically working class colleges, and does not move far from home.