Hours before he took to the state Capitol’s Grand Staircase in July 2010 to sound a defiant challenge to Governor Deval Patrick, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo brought a onetime antagonist, state Representative Martin J. Walsh, into his office for a chat.
Walsh, the Dorchester Democrat now running to be mayor of Boston, had backed DeLeo’s rival, John H. Rogers of Norwood, for the speakership the year before. And he had been an occasional thorn in DeLeo’s side since then, part of a rump caucus still disgruntled from what had been a nasty, back- alley leadership fight.
But that day, DeLeo was in a pitched battle with Patrick over crucial details of casino gambling legislation, and he needed Walsh and his ties to labor and his knack for cobbling together coalitions, to be part of a last-ditch bid to shore up enough support to overwhelm Patrick’s veto threat.
For Walsh, locked now in a tight match with City Councilor John R. Connolly, the moment was emblematic of his 16-year career at the State House. Repeatedly, he has angered powerful House speakers and been relegated to the sidelines. And repeatedly, trading on his ability to form alliances with unlikely partners, Walsh has made his way back to semi-prominence.
As Walsh and his allies have frequently noted during the mayoral campaign, his legislative career extends far beyond labor to human services, human rights, and governmental reforms. He has been a consistent advocate for more funding to combat substance abuse and homelessness. And he has pleased progressive colleagues by legislating against stereotype, standing up early and consistently for gay marriage. He has called his vote to protect gay marriage one of his proudest moments.
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