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Washington vs. Newton, MA: The Buzz on Setti Warren's Senate Run

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Last Monday, as soon as Setti Warren announced his run for Senate against Scott Brown, my phone began to ring and emails arrived in my inbox asking if I was excited about the Newton mayor's run for Senate. The funny thing is, none of the emails were from fellow Newtonites, they were all from friends in Washington, D.C., where I lived for 10 years before returning home to Mass. in January of this year.

The DCers who work or are active in Democratic politics bandied about phrases like "very excited," "rising star," "support from Clinton and Kerry" when describing Warren's announcement. In the blogosphere, David Jarman of the Daily Kos, the largest progressive community blog in the United States said,

Warren has about 80,000 constituents in Newton (an affluent but dark-blue suburb of Boston), which is 80K more than either City Year founder Alan Khazei (also running for the seat) ... He also has considerable upside for the general, at least in terms of his resume: the charismatic Warren, who's 41 years old and often given the 'rising star' seal of approval in the press...

Is Jarman assuming that the 80K Newton residents will be supporting Warren in his Senate bid? While the press and Dem insiders seem enamored, if the chatter I've overheard in this city's Whole Foods, and Dunkin' Donuts is any indicator, Warren better work hard to see that those 80k constituents help him rather than hurt him on 2012. The mayor, who has barely been in office a year-and-a-half, seems to have made a less than favorable impression on Newton residents with his announcement of a Senate run. In the Boston Globe, Robert L. Cerra of Auburndale wrote about Warren in his Letter to the Editor: "He took office with a flurry of activity, and then slowly his administration began to look passive in the face of serious fiscal problems."

Another letter from Susan Servias of Chestnut Hill said, "...as he collects more money to run for U.S. Senate, he could help fund the expensive special election we might need to hold because of his self-serving desire to rise to the top." The comment section was overwhelmingly in agreement with the Mr. Cerra, and Ms. Servias.

There is a vast gulf in opinion on Warren's run between DC politicos and his constituents in Newton. DCers whisper that Warren has Sen. Kerry and the Clintons' political muscle behind him. Warren would be wise to not to lean too much on them, and remember "unbeatable Hillary" in the 2008 election, and Kerry's 2004 prolific gaffe machine of a campaign.

The pol that Warren should be listening to is the late Tip O'Neill, Cambridge native and speaker of the house from 1977-87, who never forgot "all politics is local," and right now Mr. Warren needs to do much better with the locals. Eight-thousand residents can translate into a make-or-break margin of votes. Right now, for some Newton residents, it is not a question of "What have you done for me lately, Mr. Mayor?" It is a question of "What have you done at all?"

This post originally appeared on Newton Patch.

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