A Political Career Revived, Mr. Tosado Goes to Boston…
This is the fourth in a series of posts on the new 189th Massachusetts General Court sworn on January 7.
SPRINGFIELD—Three and a half years after Jose Tosado suffered a devastating loss in 2011’s mayoral election here, the reserved, former councilor’s decision to reenter the political fray in 2014 had paid off.
Supporters, friends, family and former political rivals packed the International Biergarten last month for Tosado’s first major fundraiser as a state representative. Though joined by Speaker Robert DeLeo, his political resurrection had not taken his eyes off of the city he had served for over a decade.
“‘Mr. Speaker,’” DeLeo recalled Tosado saying during their first meeting, “‘I want to make a difference for Springfield.’”
Since winning the nomination in the arch-Democratic 9th Hampden district, once the epicenter of Irish Springfield politics (it now covers a precinct in Chicopee), Tosado is enjoying a reversal of political fortune and possibly greater influence augmented by his experience at 36 Court Street.
“I ran on the model of experience counts because of the number of years I served on the municipal level,” Tosado said during a recent interview.
Some of his new colleagues concur. Representative Brendan Crighton, a freshman from Lynn and a former longtime aide to Senator Thomas McGee, found the rush of election, hiring an aide and filing bills humbling despite his 10 years of work in the legislature.
But Crighton, who bonded with Tosado partly because their cities share similar problems, praised his work ethic, noting, “If anybody hit the ground running it is Jose Tosado.”
Sitting in his office located in the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO’s Page Boulevard building, Tosado said he was fortunate to enter office with such a diverse group of freshman reps.
He observed that sharing resources, wisdom (and cell numbers) in “the building,” as the State House is called, is essential and widespread. By contrast, in City Hall, “You are an island.”
Tosado had always been a contradiction in city politics. Ex-mayor Michael Albano’s machinations precipitated Tosado’s council tenure, yet he never fell into Albano’s orbit. The son of a business owner, he is close to the Latino merchant class, but a career in the Department of Mental Health cultivated a liberal outlook and, consequently, ties to labor. Raised in the North End, but living in 16 Acres for 35 years, his political brand traverses the city’s socioeconomic strata.
Tosado’s willingness to hear people out may explain how he has transcended these divisions.
“I’m trained to listen,” Tosado said referencing his background as a social worker. Rejecting conservative or progressive labels, he said he aims for the doable and sensible. “You can’t please everybody, and I try not to,” he said. “I think that demonstrates a lack of character.”
Still, neither labor nor business are complaining.
Jeffrey Ciuffreda, president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield said Tosado is “always open to hearing what people’s concerns are” and “had a great working relationship as City Council President” with the chamber.
Ed Collins, a state AFL-CIO Vice-President and one of Tosado’s rivals in the 2014 primary, was equally effusive in his praise. Tosado has a “fantastic” relationship with labor and, “goes out of his way to keep us abreast” of issues, Collins said.
There was a perennial, but well-known independent in the general election and Collins offered critical support. “He has shown himself to be a class act,” Tosado said.
“I don’t know if it is a honeymoon,” Tosado joked about the positive reception his return has received.
Tosado’s agenda has focused on economic development and public safety. One proposal he sponsored establishes grants for Gateway Cities (like Springfield) to combat crime around economic development projects. Bolstering public safety has long been a priority for Tosado, whose brother is a cop and father was murdered thirty years ago.
But reps’ power ripples out statewide, too. Holyoke Rep Aaron Vega said in the State House, “you’re dealing with much bigger ideas” and “you’re dealing with all of these issues the same day. Something you didn’t necessarily campaign on, but now you’re responsible.”
Consider the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act for example. Tosado signed on as a cosponsor along with fellow freshman Carlos Gonzalez and much of Springfield’s delegation. Though never a visible issue during the campaign, his articulate support has pleased advocates.
Linda Matys O’Connell, who is working with MotherWoman to help pass the bill, said Tosado impressed her with his understanding of working women’s challenges, viewing it “not only as a legislator but also as a social worker, a father and a grandfather.”
“I think it’s great to have a representative who can see through a variety of lenses,” O’Connell continued. “That makes for the very best kind of decision-making.”
Assigned to the licensure, financial services, redistricting and mental health committees, Tosado has also kept an eye on issues from social worker licensing to the 2020 Census. He stays in touch with his old boss at DMH and reached out to the Judiciary via his daughter, a clerk for the Supreme Judicial Court.
One consequence of Tosado’s election is he is again working with Domenic Sarno, the man who defeated him in 2011’s mayoral race, However, Tosado waved off any implication of intrigue.
Sources suggest the two have no relationship, but Tosado said that he and the rest of the delegation meet with the mayor monthly to discuss matters in Boston.
Among fellow Western Massachusetts legislators, Tosado suggested that there is great potential to deliver for the region, despite relatively low seniority. He remarked that aside from full House sessions, they are often not in Boston at the same time because they serve on panels that cover different subjects, which is itself an opportunity.
“We certainly have the capacity,” to have an impact. “Everyone sits on some very good committees.”
Between that and building relationships with the speaker and new colleagues like Rep Crighton, Tosado may be in the best position of his career to “make a difference” for his hometown.
“I think that is going to be happening,” DeLeo had said at last month’s fundraiser.