For state Rep. Jim Marzilli, yesterday’s victory in the four-way special election Democratic primary for a vacant state Senate seat couldn’t come a moment too soon. Though he still must defeat Republican and Constitution Party opponents in a Dec. 11 final election, the longtime Arlington rep seems well on his way to a Senate seat in the heavily Democratic district. Going from the 160-member House to the 40-member Senate is a well-worn path up the ladder for the politically ambitious. But for Marzilli it would represent much more, opening the door for nothing less than a move back into political relevance.
After filing a competing energy bill that appeared to be outflanking efforts by House Speaker Sal DiMasi to come up with an energy proposal of his own, Marzilli was stripped earlier this year of his post as vice chairman of the Health Care Financing Committee. DiMasi’s office said at the time that the decision had nothing to do with the Arlington Democrat’s bill, something that Marzilli certainly wasn’t buying.
The last House member for whom a move up to the Senate carried a similar promise of return from poltical Siberia was Steve Tolman. In 1998, after serving two terms in the House during which he was part of the small band of Democrats that regularly challenged the strong-armed rule of then-Speaker Tom Finneran, the Brighton Democrat won the Senate seat vacated by his brother, Warren. Tolman immediately went from House backbencher to Senate player, and currently serves as vice chairman of the powerful budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee.