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Beacon Hill Roundup: Emerging From The Shadows

Aug 26, 2017 02:57PM ● Published by Theresa Gilman

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUG. 25, 2017....When the stars align, sometimes the unexpected can happen.
Recap and analysis of the week in state government
The summer continued to serve up surprises as the sun went into hiding, a new multi-millionaire was made and career doors for past and present figures of the Massachusetts political-scape continued to open and close.

Former Lottery director and Mitt Romney aide Beth Lindstrom got the week started as she officially entered the U.S. Senate field as one of four Republicans now angling for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, while state Rep. Susannah Whipps threw everyone a curveball Tuesday when she announced the Republican Party was no longer for her.

Whipps, in something Beacon Hill has not seen in a long time, posted a statement on her website detailing reasons for her decision to unenroll from the GOP, including the overwhelmingly independent makeup of the electorate in her western Massachusetts district.

What truly motivated Whipps to leave the party remains somewhat of a mystery as she declined comment beyond her written statement. And despite voting against the small Republican bloc in the House this session on several key issues, she didn't pick a fight on her way out as she said she hopes to work closely with both parties in the future.

Whipps might well be the first unenrolled elected official in the Legislature since Lawrence's Willy Lantigua (before he became a Democrat), and now party leaders will have to figure out where she fits into a party-dictated committee and leadership structure.

But the afterglow of the eclipse and curiosity of Whipps' decision quickly gave way to Powerball fever and the realization that one Bay Stater had beaten the 1-in-292,201,338 odds.

Mavis Wanczyk, the 53-year-old holder of the $758.7 million winning Powerball ticket did what every hopeful Lottery player says they'll do should they strike it rich - quit their job. Immediately.

Wanczyk worked her last graveyard shift at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield on Tuesday night, telling her bosses the next day not to expect her back after she became the largest Lottery winner in Massachusetts history.

The Chicopee resident wasted little time coming forward to collect her prize, hoping to turn the spotlight off as soon as possible so, as she put it, she could go home and "hide in bed" while she figures out what to do with her overnight wealth.

Wanczyk wasn't the only big winner from the Powerball jackpot. Treasurer Deb Goldberg and others pointed out that the state will do pretty nicely as well, taking home $25 million in income taxes that could have gone to another state should the winning ticket not have been printed here.

Once upon a time, a total eclipse of the sun might have made people want to hide in bed as well.

But now that we understand through modern science what exactly is happening, the celestial event lured cubicle warriors out from under the fluorescent lights to bask in the glow of the partial solar eclipse Monday.

Downtown workers crowded the Common while State House aides, electeds and administration officials gathered on balconies, hung out State House windows and shared cereal box projecters to catch a glimpse.

It was a festive, communal experience without any of the baggage that has come with more recent mass gatherings in Boston to protest white supremacy or the presidency of Donald Trump.

For some however, this week marked the point at which they decided higher office was not written in their horoscope - at least not right now.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge bowed out of the Third Congressional District sweepstakes, announcing he would not run for the seat he once coveted when U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas retires after 2018 and, instead, seek re-election to the Senate. Rep. Jennifer Benson followed suit a day later, and like Eldridge plans to run to keep her seat rather than put it on the line for a chance to go to Washington.

In the tug of war between risk and reward, risk so far has loomed larger among the elected officials who were considering the opportunity presented by Tsongas's retirement.

While some like Dan Koh, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's chief of staff, are all in, others, including state Sens. Eileen Donoghue and Barbara L'Italien and 2014 lieutenant governor nominee Steve Kerrigan, are taking their time to decide.

One state senator may never have to make another decision about whether to enter a political race again. State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, who has put her name on the ballot seven times, tendered her resignation from office, effective Aug. 31, to take one of five slots on the new Cannabis Control Commission.

Flanagan has a long legislative history of working on issues of substance abuse and mental health, and may have felt the time was right to leave the Senate as she found herself outside of Senate President Stanley Rosenberg's leadership circle after backing Steve Brewer in the 2014 succession fight.

Flanagan now hopes to put legislative experience to work in her new $120,000-a-year job that will trigger yet another special election - this time in Flanagan's Worcester and Middlesex district.

Baker was the first to name his pick to the CCC, and selections from Attorney General Maura Healey and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who gets to choose the chair, are expected next week, along with two consensus picks from the three appointing authorities.

Healey's pick could be scrutinized by Boston lawyer and Sandwich resident Dan Shores, who announced this week that he would run for attorney general. Shores joins Bourne attorney Jay McMahon as the two Republicans currently vying for the right to take on Healey.

Shores hit Healey for what he considers to be the politicization of the attorney general's office, namely the myriad lawsuits she has filed or signed onto against the Trump administration. Shores suggested that last year he did his duty as a lifelong Republican supporting Trump as the GOP nominee for president, but said he didn't "overtly" back the president.

Both Shores and McMahon said the opioid crisis and throwing the book at drug traffickers would be among their top priorities if elected, and on that front the state got a bit of good (in relative terms) news.

The number of deaths from opioid related overdoses in 2017 is down 5 percent, or 53 people, over the first six months of the year, a positive trend if it continues.

State officials are also hoping the downward trajectory of carbon emissions will continue after striking a deal among the nine states that make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to extend the cap-and-trade program through 2030 with a 3 percent reduction in the emissions cap each year.

Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat and opponent of legalized marijuana, was Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's pick for the CCC, which will wield broad powers to implement and regulate the legal marijuana market in Massachusetts.
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Town Hall, Opinion lottery State House state house news powerball winner Jennifer Flanagan Susannah Whipps

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