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Snowe storm

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If Americans needed yet more evidence that Congress has been taken over the political equivalent of the walking dead, there is now the case of US Sen. Olympia Snowe. The moderate Maine Republican decided to retire from the Senate rather than face the prospect of another six years head-butting her dysfunctional colleagues.

“I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” she said in a statement about the move that even her staff did not see coming.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein agrees with Snowe that gridlock in Washington is bound to get worse. That prospect “had to especially dismay someone like Olympia, who actually was a policy wonk and who worked so effectively behind the scenes,’’ Sen. John Kerry told The Boston Globe.  “Bipartisanship isn’t a slogan to her.’’

After the initial shock dies away, that a politician like Snowe should decide that her talents could be put to better use elsewhere makes perfect sense. The Daily Beast calls her “one of the last representatives of a dying breed.” Her brand of politics, reaching across the aisle to compromise with Democrats and developing fact-based competence in issues like defense and health care, is as alien on Capitol Hill today as sitting down in a lace-curtained room with tea and crumpets to haggle over the issues of the day.

With Republican presidential candidates in a race to adopt the most radical conservative positions on the political spectrum, it’s also worth asking how much more fallout the GOP can absorb over issues like contraception before they have to worry about losses in the House and the Senate.  

Snowe’s decision forces Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had no inkling it was coming either, to devise a new calculus to try and gain control of the chamber. Especially troubling for Republicans is that Snowe’s seat was safe enough that Maine Democrats faced an uphill fight to retake it. Democratic Party leaders are now doing backflips over the prospect of a real election contest.

One Maine Democrat likely to jump in a race that now takes on national importance is US Rep. Chellie Pingree, whom The Huffington Post calls Maine’s answer to Elizabeth Warren. A Warren persona could be more appealing to pragmatic Mainers than the Pine Tree State equivalent of a Scott Brown-type who might abandon any pretense of hewing to the path of New England Republican moderation charted by Snowe and her fellow Maine Republican, Sen. Susan Collins.

In a period when male politicians have forced a national debate on settled issues like contraception, the departure of the first woman to serve in in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress is disheartening. "I think Olympia's retirement is emblematic of her party's march to the far right," said a Democratic consultant in Portland. "The Republican Party of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney is not the Republican Party of Olympia Snowe."
 
                                                                                                                                        --GABRIELLE GURLEY



BEACON HILL

Attorney General Martha Coakley has tapped a former New Jersey State Police lieutenant colonel and Bay State native as her pick for the new state gambling commission.

The Herald finds retired public employees collecting unemployment benefits.

Lawmakers weigh a fireworks legalization bill.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua delivers a state of the city address in which he says Lawrence is improving, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Meanwhile, The paper gives the thumbs down to Lantigua’s hiring of former Patrick aide Ron Bell as his chief of staff. “Bell hasn’t the least qualification to be chief of staff in Lawrence. But he does have a friend in Gov. Patrick and a mayor of Lawrence who owes the governor a favor,” an Eagle-Tribune editorial says.

Lowell doesn’t have a hotel downtown, and the Lowell Sun explores why that is and what should be done about it.

The Worcester City Council prohibits the city clerk and assistant city clerk from pocketing fees for performing marriages on city property during work hours, but gives them raises of $10,000 and $3,500, respectively, the Worcester Telegram reports.

Salem plans to join the state’s Group Insurance Commission, saving about $1.3 million initially, the Salem News reports.

The Brockton Enterprise reports on a letter sent by Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti to the city’s unions which reminds them that they promised to cooperate in the city’s effort to cut health care costs.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will announce plans today to bring a casino to the city of Taunton. The tribe has until July 31 to complete negotiations over a site or face the possibility of losing their preferential status.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The Daily Beast, using poll, economic, and weather data, picks the happiest cities in America. Washington, DC, ranked first. Boston was eighth, Bridgeport, Connecticut,10th, and Manchester, New Hampshire, 15th.

A New York Times editorial calls New Hampshire’s pending repeal of its same-sex marriage statute “especially distressing.”

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney wins in Michigan and Arizona, and he still can’t shake stories like this, especially as he marches toward Super Tuesday. Rick Santorum, seen here channeling Steve Jobs and Citizen Kane, hopes Ohio will be more receptive to his message of manufacturing and religiosity.

Weighing in on the controversy over Scott Brown’s invocation of Ted Kennedy in radio ads, the Globe editorial page says Kennedy family members are not the only ones allowed to interpret the late senator’s legacy.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Dow Jones Industrial Average breaks the 13,000 level for the first time since May 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports.

State Street Corp. must pay $5 million to the state for failing to fully disclose to investors information about a collateralized debt obligation it managed, the Patriot Ledger reports.

Secretary of State William Galvin says his office is “actively investigating a number of deals, a number of entities.”

The nation’s home price slide just won’t stop.

Sheldon Adelson weighs in on Steve Wynn’s business partner drama.

EDUCATION

Gloucester High School installs 36 security cameras to monitor the 1,100 students, the Gloucester Times reports.

A controversial Somerville charter school doesn’t get the state’s approval.

HEALTH CARE

The Partners HealthCare behemoth may be getting even bigger -- and establishing its first foothold in Western Mass. -- as trustees at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton approve negotiating a merger with Mass. General Hospital, one of the flagship Partners hospitals.

A new pill-form treatment for multiple sclerosis developed by Weston-based Biogen Idec may be able to replace the injections or intravenous therapy patients have had to endure, the Globe reports.

TRANSPORTATION

House leaders in Washington try to work out a compromise over mass transit funding.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Fishermen testified at the State House yesterday in opposition to a proposed ban on commercial fishing of striped bass. Conservationists say the species are dwindling in numbers, the Patriot Ledger reports.

Residents of  Savoy, Florida, and Falmouth testify at a hearing on wind turbines in Lee and blast state officials for failing to take health concerns seriously in a recent report. Meanwhile, the New Bedford Standard-Times argues in an editorial that good communication with residents about proposed renewable energy projects is key to alleviating their concerns.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett says he plans to explore the relationship between a Beverly police officer and the widow of the Hamilton police sergeant who shot him, the Salem News reports.

The Brockton Enterprise argues for stronger enforcement of a law that calls for tougher punishment of those who drive drunk with children in the car.

MEDIA

The Globe breaks the story that murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was posthumously baptized by members of the Mormon Church last year, the latest example of a prominent Jew receiving such treatment.  Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby insists critics are making too much of the Mormon practice, which has come in for sharp criticism.

The Gannett newspaper chain launches a paywall program across 30 states and Guam, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

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