I'm Feeling Right Now that 'Senator Shortsleeve' Has a Certain Duende to It

Friday, April 21, 2017

Joe Shortsleeve, who achieved New England fame as a TV newsman, is seriously considering running for the Massachusetts Senate.

As a former newsman of the (glamor-challenged) print variety, I hope Joe runs for the Bristol-Norfolk District seat to be vacated soon (May 2) by Jim Timilty. 
My advice is he should adopt a campaign slogan once used by another newsman, Jimmy Breslin, when he ran in 1968 for city council president in New York City on a ticket headed by novelist/journalist Norman Mailer:  “Throw the rascals in!”

Counter-intuitive is working today in U.S. politics.  Just ask Donald “I-like-guys-who-don’t-get captured” Trump.  And people always like a guy who can poke fun at himself and have a little fun on the campaign trail.
Shortsleeve, 59, had a long career at WBZ-TV News in Boston before linking up in 2014 with the Liberty Square group, a communications/political consulting firm headed by Scott Ferson, who made his bones as a javelin-catching press spokesman for Ted Kennedy.

I have never met Joe Shortsleeve.  I can’t say what might be fueling his late-blooming interest in public office. If I had to guess, I’d say it has to do with the typical candidate’s desire to attain power, recognition and a voice in weighty matters, coupled with the feeling of, “Why shouldn’t I run? I can do at least as good as the pols I’ve been covering for years.”
Here I am no doubt projecting my own tiny temperament onto the poor Mr. Shortsleeve.  Sorry, Joe.

As someone who long ago covered city government and state government for a daily newspaper, I can identify with the spectator who thinks he’s cut out to be a player.  While witnessing a speech by a long-winded mayor or legislator, I confess that I sometimes dreamt of being in that person’s shoes.  I’d think, “Damn, I could do this! I’d look good up there.” 
Fortunately, I never put that hypothesis to the test; else the embarrassment of defeat at the polls, an experience likened by many losing candidates to “a public death,” would have been added to my bulging book of life regrets.  (The old Latin proverb comes to mind: Nemo sui iudex.  No man can judge himself.)

In any event, a member of a distinguished Massachusetts political family, a true gentleman who has served in the state senate for 13 years, Jim Timilty, Democrat of Walpole, is leaving the upper branch to take the post of Norfolk County Treasurer, and someone will be chosen relatively soon in a special election to succeed him.
“I’ve got to make a decision (to run or not) within the next week or so,” said Shortsleeve, a resident of Medfield and uncle of quintessential man-on-the-hot-seat Brian Shortsleeve, who serves in the Baker administration as the MBTA’s chief administrator.

If Joe Shortsleeve gives it a go – and I sincerely hope he does -- he’ll be joining two persons already with both feet in the race, Ted Philips, staff director for Stoughton representative Lou Kafka, and Paul Feeney, a former chief of staff to Senator Timilty, a former majordomo in the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign apparatus, and the current legislative director (lobbyist) for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2222.
If Shortsleeve runs, he’ll have the widest name recognition by far throughout the race.  That’s the kind of thing that comes from having been the chief news correspondent for a TV station with a powerful broadcast signal and a vast, loyal viewership.

Pondering that name today, on the spur I did an Internet search, asking omniscient Lord Google, “What is the derivation of the surname Shortsleeve?”  The most plausible answer was, it’s an anglicized version of the French-Canadian name Courtemanche.  (Court means short in French, manche sleeve.)  
Following the Google-proffered thread, I found there are Shortsleeves residing in towns across New York State and New England, which brought to mind something an older colleague of mine in newspapering used to remind us greenhorns of.  “Well into the 1970s,” Loring Swaim was wont to say, “more residents of Massachusetts traced their ancestry to French Canada than to any other country, including England, Ireland and Italy.”

Speaking of persons who should run for office, I am hoping Rep. Christopher Walsh goes for mayor of Framingham, as he's thinking of doing when that community transitions next year from a town meeting form of government to the more conventional system for cities of its size, mayor and city council.
A four-term Democrat and licensed professional architect, Walsh is smart and easygoing, with a good grasp of policy and legislating -- someone who takes his job seriously and himself lightly.  Plus, he gave a great sound bite to the State House News Service when it asked him this past Tuesday why’s he’s interested in becoming Framingham’s first-ever elected chief executive.

“I love my job as a state rep,” said Walsh.  “It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.  But the ability to effect things at this local level as the first mayor, I think, is wildly interesting and I’m going to pursue that a little bit and see how possible it is.”
Anyone who can ingenuously declare that being a mayor today of a city of 68,000 souls is a “wildly interesting” proposition, and can describe the chance to be that mayor as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” has my vote.  






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