Window Into The State House

High stakes: Markey, Kennedy joust on multiple fronts ahead of final debate   The stakes don’t get much higher. As Sen. Ed Markey and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III prepare for their final head-to-head debate ahead of the Democratic senate primary, the candidates made it clear they have plenty of attack material ready for launch in what a new poll suggests is a dead heat. The Globe’s Victoria McGrane reports a new Survey USA poll gives Markey a lead well within the margin of error, while Chris Van Buskirk of State House News Service reports Kennedy used a press availability Monday to slam Markey on social justice issues and to defend his own family from what he called ‘attacks’ on the Kennedy legacy. Erin Tiernan of the Herald reports that press conference–where no questions were taken–was briefly interrupted by an outburst from Rayla Campbell, a Republican seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley.  Separately, Christian Wade of the Salem News reports Kennedy is accusing Markey of ‘watering down’ a gas pipeline safety bill prompted by the Merrimack Valley explosions to make it more palatable to Republicans.   
  What scandal? Morse allegations a footnote in heated debate   Plenty more political pugilism in the 1st congressional district, but maybe not the kind observers expected.  Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal finally faced off in a debate on Monday in what has quickly become a bitterly contested race for the House, but explosive allegations that Morse engaged in inappropriate relationships with UMass students got only a passing mention, Stephanie Barry of MassLive and CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl report.   But that doesn’t mean it was a friendly face-off, with Larry Parnass of the Berkshire Eagle reporting Morse slapped Neal for being a tool of wealthy special interests while Neal in turn told Morse to focus on being a better mayor before trying to wrest away his seat in Congress. Meanwhile, the Globe’s Matt Stout reports dozens of members of the Massachusetts Democratic state committee are pushing for an independent review into the allegations against Morse and claims they were trumped up with the help of party operatives.   
  Happening here: Postal workers say sorting machines removed in Bay State   Now it’s really hitting home. Saraya Wintersmith of WGBH reports postal worker unions say at least a dozen high-capacity mail sorting machines have been removed from facilities in Massachusetts as part of a large plan at the U.S. Postal Service. Meanwhile, Attorney General Maura Healey is seeking to shore up confidence in voting by mail even as she pledged to use the courts if necessary to halt President Trump’s effort to hamstring postal operations, WBUR reports.  And Democrats are clearly sensing a winning political argument: The Washington Post reports U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined with fellow senators to call for the USPS board to halt any more changes until after the election, while several members of the Mass. congressional delegation have media events planned for today aimed at drawing attention to the situation. Also: On Martha’s Vineyard, about 50 protesters took to the streets to support the mail getting through, Lucas Thor of the Martha’s Vineyard Times reports.   
  First impressions: Virtual DNC is reminder that it’s no longer politics as usual   As expected, it was weird. James Pindell of the Globe and Ryan Lizza of Politico report that the first night of the first-ever virtual Democratic National Convention offered a stark reminder that we are in entirely new territory for both parties. And there were Bay State cameos: A brief appearance by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and a posthumous nod to late Boston PR pro and Joe Biden confidante Larry Rasky. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld, meanwhile, argues the real question of the week is how far to the left Biden will be pulled by the party’s progressive wing.    
  Relatively robust: With limited options, casinos clawed back $45M in July   They came back. After a months-long hiatus following the coronavirus shutdown in March, the state’s three casinos outperformed expectations, drawing in $45.4 million in gross revenue, CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl and Colin Young of SHNS report. That’s 56 percent below last year but considering pandemic restrictions on everything from table games to how drinks are served, a sign that underlying demand remains relatively robust.   
  Expedited overhaul: Soldiers’ Home upgrade process on fast track for fed funds   The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where 76 veterans died this spring after contracting Covid-19, is about to get an extreme makeover on a fast deadline. State officials on Monday announced they have hired Boston architecture firm Payette to examine the facility with an eye to recommending first steps towards renovating or expanding the building, Jeanette DeForge of MassLive reports.  CommonWealth Magazine’s Shira Schoenberg reports state officials hope to have plans ready in time for a round of federal grant funding slated to be released next spring.   
  Long-term pain: T facing $400 million shortfall as ridership sags   Just wait until next year. The MBTA could face a $400 million budget hole next summer as federal coronavirus aid runs out and service cuts may have to be on the table, the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro reports.    
  Gauntlet thrown: State Rep. candidate releases taxes, calls on challengers to match   From Geoff Spillane of the Cape Cod Times: Republican state Rep. candidate Steven Xiarhos made public copies of his recent tax returns and challenged both his GOP primary opponent and his potential November election Democratic rival in the 5th Barnstable County seat being vacated by the GOP’s Randy Hunt to follow suit.   
  Drop it: Boston Bar urges feds to drop death penalty pursuit in Boston bombing case   The Boston Bar Association has waded into the debate over whether federal prosecutors should attempt to retry the death penalty case against Dzhokar Tsaranev, urging Attorney GEneral William Barr to drop the pursuit of capital punishment and “let the case rest.”  
  Should bail itself be on trial?   All that anger at the Massachusetts Bail Fund after a rapist on pretrial release allegedly struck again? It might better be directed toward changing the way cash bail is used altogether, Catherine Elton writes in Boston Magazine.  
  Undercount? Data suggests Brockton’s Covid death toll may be much higher   This debate will probably not be settled for a while. The city of Brockton’s official coronavirus death tally of 277 people may be as much as 40 percent below the actual figure, Ben Berke of the Enterprise reports. The number of deaths recorded in the city in April and May alone outpaced the average yearly total.   
  ‘Fully complicit’: Prosecutors press for jail time for Loughlin   The Globe’s Travis Andersen and the Herald’s Joe Dwinellreport that federal prosecutors are telling a judge that actress Lori Loughlin and her husband both should serve prison terms for their role in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal. The couple will be sentenced Friday and prosecutors didn’t hold back in their recommendation, calling for “meaningful terms of incarceration.” A plea deal on the table would put Loughlin behind bars for two months and her husband for five months.   
  Open source: Amherst seeks input on starts new policing model   They’re looking for some insights. Members of the Amherst Town Council are asking the public–especially those who have been impacted by traditional policing–to offer suggestions on how to revamp the town’s police department, Scott Merzbach of the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports.