Keller at Large

Keller: Once a Flip Flopper…

On this week’s Keller at Large, Jon Keller wonders whether comparisons to U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney are something to brag about. Keller’s take: “Romney was once very popular here. After promising to curb state spending and wage war on waste, his job approval peaked at a Baker-esque 66 percent in the fall of 2003. But once his Potomac fever became apparent, his numbers cratered. Part of the problem: Romney’s emerging propensity for b.s.”


Happening Today

10 a.m. | Springfield holds its annual ceremonial raising of the Black American Heritage Flag. Rep. Bud Williams, Mayor Domenic Sarno, Sen. Adam Gomez, Pastor Mark Baymon, and municipal officials will be in attendance. 

 10 a.m. | Board of Higher Education meets and is expected to consider a motion authorizing the creation of an advisory council that will work with an external consultant to conduct a search for the state’s next higher education commissioner. 

 10 a.m. | Mass. Gaming Commission meets to discuss its process for the suitability reviews it conducts on people and businesses that have substantial control over the state’s gaming licenses. 

 11 a.m. | UMass Lowell Chancellor Search Committee holds its first meeting, with members scheduled to discuss their charge and next steps before moving into executive session.

12 p.m. | Civil rights lawyer and former Assistant District Attorney Rahsaan Hall announces candidacy for Plymouth County District Attorney.

Today’s Stories

Good Tuesday morning, we’re now less than two months away from baseball season though lockout issues could push that day back. Let’s jump right into the news: There’s a well-funded challenger looking to put up a fight in Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District.

While a lot of attention has been paid to whether freshman U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss will get a challenge from his left, self-described libertarian Emily Burns is hoping to take on Auchincloss in November and she’s already raised just over $358,000 in her first quarter on the campaign trail, though $250,000 came from a personal loan, according to documents her campaign provided to MASSterList. That’s more than Republican Julie Hall had for her entire campaign in 2020, but year-end campaign finance reports due Monday show Auchincloss sitting on $2.2 million for his reeelection.

MASSterList connected with Burns, who is running as a Republican, for a quick Q&A to get a sense of her campaign and priorities. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

ML: Tell us why you launched your campaign. It seems you’re taking particular aim at COVID-related mandates?

Burns: I’ve been really, really frustrated with the policies of the [last] almost two years. I feel like they are making it impossible for us to get back to normal and that those policies, while many of them are implemented at the state and town level, are really coming from Washington. It’s just become an incredible barrier to returning to normal.

ML: Outside of your party affiliation, what do you think sets you apart from Auchincloss?

Burns: The way I view myself as being different from Jake is that I view myself as being a representative for constituents, and specifically parents rather than special interests, like teachers’ unions. That’s really, I think, the difference between me and a person like Jake. I think that Jake very much is part of the Democratic machine and that’s what he seems to feed.

He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, according to that, but I don’t think it’s helping the people in our districts, and I certainly don’t think it’s helping my kids. I think until Democrats start standing up to teachers’ unions, we’re gonna have some pretty bad situations for our kids in the state.

ML: You said a major priority for you is returning Massachusetts to a sense of normalcy. What would be a signifier that we’ve returned to normal?

Burns: Nobody being required to wear masks … whether or not that’s children or servers or other people. If people choose to wear masks, that’s fine. I even think it’s fine if businesses want to try, and I think this actually would make sense, to create spaces to allow people to transition out of this current fearfulness into norms.

Maybe you have like hours at grocery stores that are masked, maybe you have sections that are masked. Maybe you do these things so that people feel comfortable kind of getting used to the idea of getting back to normal as opposed to right now. I think we just cater to the most fearful, and that makes it very hard to move forward.

Eviction relief fund running low as state looks to investigate fraud

The Baker administration is cutting back on aid payments from the state’s Eviction Diversion Initiative with state officials saying funds are running low. Dan Atkinson for DigBoston reports the Department of Housing and Community Development received $850 million from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program to help people make housing payments. More than half of that was spent by the end of 2021 and the state estimates it will stop accepting new ERA and other housing payment aid applications by April 15. 

More from Atkinson: “At the same time, [Massachusetts] is looking to spend $800,000 of that aid on corporate law firms to look for fraud in applications. It’s a move that housing rights advocates say not only takes money away from people in desperate need of aid, but could result in the rejection of legitimate applications.”


Baker administration urges return to “normal” for higher education

Get back to normal. That’s the message two top Baker administration officials conveyed in a letter to college and university presidents last week. State House News Service’s Colin A. Young reports Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Education Secretary James Peyser told education officials that they should lead the shift back to “near normal” by pulling back COVID-related policies.

State House News Service

Poll finds most registered voters don’t know candidates running for governor

Who are these people running for governor anyway? A MassINC Polling Group survey of 504 registered voters found that more than half had not heard of the four declared gubernatorial candidates. There is some good news for the attorney general. State House News Service’s Michael P. Norton reports Democrat Maura Healey holds a lead over her opponents among likely Democratic primary voters.

State House News Service

Former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe chairman trial date set

The former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe chairman indicted on bribery charges, extortion, and filing false tax returns has a court date. Cape Cod Times’ Asad Jung reports Cedric Cromwell’s trial will start at 9 a.m. on April 19 in U.S. District Court in Boston. Judge Douglas Woodlock will preside.

Cape Cod Times

BPS graduation rates called into question

Graduation rates for students in Boston Public Schools may have been overstated for years. Boston Globe’s Bianca Vázquez Toness and James Vaznis report that city audits have raised questions about the numbers, particularly when it comes to immigrant students and others who leave before earning their diploma. More from the Globe duo: “In five of the last seven years, the audits found school officials wrongfully removed dozens of students from would-be graduating classes by claiming, without documentation, that they transferred to another school, moved to another country, or died.”

Boston Globe

Pressley announces reelection campaign

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley made her 2022 reelection bid official Monday, telling supporters that she was successful in delivering federal resources to constituents and managed to push progressive criminal justice and labor reforms. MassLive’s Benjamin Kail writes that Pressley was the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts and won 87 percent of the vote in the 2020 general election.


Biden FDA nominee wins over Warren with ethics pledge

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she will support President Biden’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration after he agreed in writing to limit where he looks for work after his time in office. Politico reports Robert Califf offered to not seek work with drug or medical device companies for four years – double the time other members of the Biden administration are required to steer clear of jobs with companies they regulate.


A signature away: Plan to transform New Bedford golf course in to business park on Baker’s desk

A five-year-old plan to turn part of a municipal golf course in New Bedford into an industrial park is just awaiting the governor’s sign off after lawmakers gave the green light to the plan, which the city says will create 1,000 new jobs and as much as $2.7 million in annual tax revenue, Linda Roy of the Standard-Times reports.


The great snow dig out continues

The Great Blizzard of 2022 is still hanging around Massachusetts as residents continued to dig themselves out of several feet of snow Monday. WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann reports parts of the South Shore saw 30 inches of snow while Boston tied its record for single-day total snowfall. One resident in Charlestown said digging out from several feet just means “you have to go slow.”


Rating firm sees financial stability for Worcester

The city of Worcester is in strong financial shape and ready to handle any economic challenges, even as some revenue-producing development around Polar Park has been downsized or delayed, a Wall Street bond rating firm says. The Worcester Business Journal has the details.

Worcester Business Journal

Going to the dogs: South Shore Plaza owner beefs up security after shooting

After meeting with Braintree officials, the owners of the South Shore Plaza say they will install more security cameras and hire a K-9 unit to patrol the parking area in the wake of a fatal shooting at the mall, Joe DiFazio of the Patriot Ledger reports.

Patriot Ledger

The coolest place to stay in Massachusetts

What’s the coolest Airbnb in Massachusetts? Don’t look to Boston. Staff at the Berkshire Eagle report it’s in West Stockbridge Center. The winner: A fully renovated 19th century home featuring six bedrooms and 13-foot ceilings. That’s according to Conde Nast Traveler’s “Coolest Airbnb in Every State” list released in December.

Berkshire Eagle

Corrections & Clarifications

An item in yesterday’s newsletter concerning Keith Hovan, former CEO at SouthCoast Health, incorrectly described charges against him. Hovan hard originally been cited for domestic assault and battery, though the charge was dropped. A summons was issued for a number of counts of illegal possession of high-capacity gun magazines though the status of the gun-related charges is unclear. For more details, check out this piece from New Bedford Light’s Anastasia Lennon.

Today’s Headlines


Boston’s Chinatown hopes for a more prosperous New Year – WBUR

Hayden eschews labels, vows to ‘do the right thing’ as DA – CommonWealth Magazine

Massachusetts State Police mourns loss of Robert Whittier – MassLive


UMass Lowell to redevelop East Campus area as mixed-use urban district – Lowell Sun


Senate Dems back off Manchin and Sinema — except Bernie – Politico

Republicans lead 2022 money race as both parties hit record levels of cash on hand – Washington Post

How to Contact MASSterList

Send tips to Matt Murphy: For advertising inquiries and job board postings, please contact Dylan Rossiter: or (857) 370-1156. Follow @MASSterList on Twitter.

Subscribe to MASSterList

Start your morning with MASSterList’s chronicle of news and informed analysis about politics, policy, media, and influence in Massachusetts. Plus, get an inside look at Beacon Hill’s hottest new job postings.