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O’Flaherty to leave House, join Walsh at City Hall

Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty

George Rizer for The Boston Globe, file 2009

Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty

State Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, the Chelsea Democrat who has held the House Judiciary Committee gavel for more than a decade, will join the Walsh administration as its top attorney, officials with knowledge of the decision said Monday.

O’Flaherty’s decision comes as Mayor Martin J. Walsh, sworn in Monday morning, begins to populate his administration and installs a long-time friend in a high-ranking post.

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O’Flaherty has been Walsh’s closest friend in the House, like him the son of Irish immigrants and like him on the losing side in two consecutive House leadership fights. Unlike Walsh, who was relegated to a lesser role after both battles, O’Flaherty retained his committee chairmanship both times.

Both men arrived in the House as part of the same freshman class, O’Flaherty noted during an emotional speech when Walsh returned to the chamber the day after his mayoral election. Walsh’s girlfriend, Lorrie Higgins, has been a longtime Judiciary Committee aide.

The appointment vacates yet another seat in the House. O’Flaherty has represented his district, which includes Charlestown and much of Chelsea, since 1996.

As cochairman of the Judiciary Committee, O’Flaherty has wielded tremendous control over bills on drunken driving, the courts, sex offenders, and criminal sentencing and records.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.
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