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Political savior or Trumpian lightning rod? Hardline Bristol County sheriff eyed as party chair for embattled MassGOP
That would be Tom Hodgson, the Southeastern Massachusetts sheriff whose clashes with immigrants rights activists and championing of retro law and order policies has made him a center of controversy.
After a quarter century as sheriff, Hodgson will be out of a job come Jan. 2 after losing to Democrat Paul Heroux, mayor of Attleboro, in last month’s election.
Now some Republican insiders are wondering whether Hodgson will consider a second act in politics and run for party chair against Jim Lyons, whose acrimonious tenure has led to the near extinction of the MassGOP as an electoral force.
Some things are just hard to fathom: Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson presents now former President Trump with a plaque of recognition in a White House ceremony in 2019. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
For his part, Hodgson told Contrarian Boston he has been “approached” about running. And while he is not leaning toward a run at this point, he stopped short of definitively ruling it out.
“I would say it’s not the direction I am leaning in now but I will do everything I can to help rebuild the party,” Hodgson said.
At first glance, the idea of Hodgson taking over the MassGOP from Lyons would appear to be like taking the beleaguered state party from the frying pan straight into the fire.
The Bristol County sheriff made headlines a few years ago when he offered to send inmates to help build Trump’s farcical wall.
Meanwhile, Hodgson has faced scrutiny for the number of suicides in his jail and allegations of harsh treatment of detainees when his office ran a detention facility on behalf of federal immigration authorities, with the Biden administration pulling the contract last year. Hodgson contends the number of suicides are comparable to Suffolk County’s lockup, and notes his jail has won accreditation by the National Commission of Correctional Health Care, while dismissing the other allegations as politically motivated.
We are not so sure these various and sundry issues can be so easily waved away, but that’s a subject for another day.
All that said, Hodgson, despite being an avid Trump supporter, has also managed to retain the support of Gov. Charlie Baker, who endorsed the sheriff during his reelection campaign. And Hodgson, in turn, notes he has been a long-time supporter of Baker, having volunteered on his various political campaigns.
Hodgson said a new state party chair will need to take a more live-and-let-live attitude towards the different shades of political opinions with the MassGOP, something Lyons has definitely not been known for.
“People can have a different point of view, but it should not destroy the overall purpose” of the MassGOP, he said.
Lyons and his Trumpie clique took a vengeful approach towards party moderates and Baker supporters, refusing to run a photo of Anthony Amore, the state auditor candidate, on the state party’s website, or to even mention the name of state Rep. Shawn Dooley, who fell short in his bid to move up to the state Senate.
Dooley, a member of the Baker camp who came within two votes a couple years ago of ousting Lyons as party chair, brought up Hodgson’s name when asked about potential candidates for head of the MassGOP.
Why Hodgson? To beat Lyons, a candidate running for state party chair will have to peel off a few votes from the ultra conservative wing of the party, and Hodgson could have that crossover appeal.
“It would be an interesting choice,” Dooley said
Still, not everyone is so sanguine about the idea.
R.J. Lyman, a top environmental official under former Gov. Bill Weld, paused pointedly when asked about Hodgson.
At a time when membership in the state Republican party is dwindling, the party needs to broaden its appeal.
While Hodgson has done a “better job than most” at bridging the divide within the state Republican party, Lyman said he doesn’t think the Bristol County sheriff is the “right message carrier.”
And as Hodgson weighs his options, others are already jumping into the race for MassGOP chair, including Jay Fleitman, the vice chair of the Republican state committee, Amy Carnevale, a state committee member from Marblehead, and Republican campaign operative Christopher Lyon.
“What the party needs in leadership is a workhorse, not a show horse,” said Lyman, counsel at Dain, Torpy.
See you in court: NIMBY towns that defy new state housing law could wind up with lawsuits on their hands
That’s the warning from Clark Ziegler, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership.
As we’ve reported here, some suburban officials in affluent communities like Concord, Belmont, and Newton have openly discussed whether to ignore the MBTA Communities Law, scoffing at the loss of some small state grants and bemoaning the possibility of new apartment buildings coming to town.
Kingston’s town administrator even suggested that the town explore trying to shut down its T station, on the theory that it would then no longer have to comply with the MBTA Communities law, as Contrarian Boston has reported.
A centerpiece of outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker’s efforts to ramp up desperately needed construction of new housing, the law requires cities and towns either with T stations or near them to open their doors to new apartments, condos and townhomes.
But the law is in fact just that, the law, with language that communities “shall” implement the new, multifamily zoning districts, notes Ziegler, who has taken umbrage at criticism of the law as toothless.
Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash
Effectively, developers who want to build new apartments or condos near T stations could potentially take communities to court if they refuse to comply with the MBTA Communities law, he said.
“It’s been very clear this has been a mandate. I don’t think there is any question the courts have broad authority. At a minimum, communities should feel they are at legal risk if they don’t comply with the law,” Ziegler said.
Royals media coverage: The good, the bad and the ugly
The Globe’s Beth Teitell hit it out of the park with her hilarious piece on Princess Catherine of Wales’ uncanny ability to look downright ecstatic and positively charmed, however the mundane the occasion.
“This is not a knock on Logan Airport, Charlie Baker, or City Hall. But has anyone ever looked so delighted to see any of them?” writes Teitell, easily one of the Globe’s best writers and a Herald alum, in a killer opening line.
The royals Wedding day (by Magnus D.)
Now for the bad. That would be this semi-satirical opinion piece in the Globe by Tom Keane, a former Boston city council member: “Let’s face it: We Americans want our own royals.”
Um, actually, not really.
As for the ugly: we have Howie Carr’s offer to be a tour guide for the royals and show them what life was really like in the Somerville of decades and centuries past, from the burning of a convent by anti-Catholic Yankee bigots to a 1985 mob hit.
Carr can be super funny at times, but this was just tired and more than a little grotesque.
Million-dollar units? New low-income housing in Cambridge will be affordable to live in, but definitely not to build
The Cambridge Housing Authority is running into yet more challenges in its overhaul and expansion of the Jefferson Park affordable housing complex.
The quasi-public authority now estimates it could cost as much as $960,000 per unit to add 103 apartments and replace 175 rundown units in the apartment complex, first built more than 70 years ago by the federal government as public housing, the Cambridge Day reports.
A big chunk of that - as much as $160,000 - is due to financing charges, the online news site reports, CD notes.
With the project hitting delays as well, here’s betting Cambridge housing officials will wind up spending more than a million per unit before its all done.
But whether the final cost is $960,000 per unit or $1 million, this is clearly not a sustainable model for dealing with the Boston area’s ever more dire housing crisis.
Decent overview of controversy: “Second in the nation: New Hampshire state law now at odds with Democrat proposed primary schedule” Concord Monitor
With spending deadlines looming, Mass. schools still sitting on hundreds of millions in federal relief funds, if not more: “Schools flush with cash, but need better plan on how to spend it” CommonWealth Magazine
More on “fallen crypto king” and idiot of the year: “Sam Bankman-Fried doesn’t read. That tells us everything.” Molly Roberts/Washington Post
Good, but the jobs are still not coming back here: “Apple Makes Plans to Move Production Out of China” Wall Street Journal
About Contrarian Boston
I have fielded emails over the past year asking what Contrarian Boston is about.
Here’s a link to our mission statement – you can find it in the “about” section.
For a more prosaic, nuts-and-bolts description, read on.
An online newsletter, Contrarian Boston publishes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In Contrarian Boston you’ll find analysis of the day’s news, and original reporting as well.
Our focus is:
· Politics and all levels of governance, good and bad, with an emphasis on state and local, with some national mixed in;
· Economic growth and business, especially real estate, housing and new development projects;
· The media and why it does what it does;
· Education, from school board spats to the doings of multibillion-dollar university endowments;
· And whatever else catches our fancy.