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In crisis, state senator soldiers on

Galluccio pressed to publicly explain his actions, seek treatment

Senator Anthony Galluccio appeared in court on Friday. Senator Anthony Galluccio appeared in court on Friday. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Stephanie Ebbert
Globe Staff / November 23, 2009

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There is no escaping the hard questions for state Senator Anthony D. Galluccio.

As the Cambridge lawmaker stepped out of a Medford courthouse last week, he was greeted by about a dozen reporters, waiting to ask him versions of one blunt question: “When are you going to rehab?’’

Four rain-soaked protesters showed up outside, holding signs with slogans including “Laws R For Politicians Too.’’

Multiple newspapers have called on Galluccio to seek help or resign following reports about one recent day in which Galluccio was so drunk that he couldn’t tell the bar manager who tried to drive him home where he lived. Instead, Cambridge Police drove him home. Thirteen hours later, the senator allegedly rear-ended a minivan carrying four people, leaving two with minor injuries, and drove away from the scene without stopping.

Galluccio, who has a record of drinking and driving, serves on the Legislature’s committee dealing with substance abuse.

“At some point, he needs to honest ly confront his demons,’’ said Joshua Resnek, a community newspaper editor who counts himself among Galluccio’s friends but who penned three editorials last week urging Galluccio to get help before he kills someone.

“This is not just about saving a political life,’’ Resnek added. “This is about righting a guy who is out of control. We’re not trying to hurt Anthony Galluccio. He’s already shown a great propensity to hurt himself.’’

Galluccio’s troubles could not come at a worse time for Beacon Hill. The Legislature last week ended its work for the year with few accomplishments to cite.

And four of its own are now awaiting trial: former House speaker Salvatore DiMasi and former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, who have been indicted in unrelated corruption cases; former senator J. James Marzilli Jr., who faces multiple charges of groping and harassing women; and Galluccio, who on Friday pleaded not guilty to charges of leaving the scene after causing property damage and leaving the scene after causing personal injury in connection with the Oct. 4 hit-and-run.

To the chagrin of some of his friends and colleagues, Galluccio, a former Cambridge mayor, has not yet publicly acknowledged the severity of his situation. As he exited the courthouse with a public relations handler on Friday, he told the media he intends to deal with unspecified “personal issues,’’ but he would not say whether that meant he would seek alcohol rehabilitation.

In the days after the accident, he conducted business as usual, voting on the floor of the Senate and testifying on legislation to address bullying. He even held a political fund-raiser with an open bar, and showed up at one of US Senate candidate Michael Capuano’s “Open Mike Nights’’ in a bar.

To the puzzlement of many, a politician known for his relentlessness - who ran for the Legislature three times before succeeding - seems to be simply soldiering on.

Many of his friends, constituents, and political advisers are encouraging him to more directly deal with the crisis by seeking treatment and explaining his behavior to the public.

“He said to me he could use this as a teaching experience,’’ said Peter Payack, who knows Galluccio as a fellow coach and mentor to young people. “I said, yeah, but make sure you’re OK so you can teach it.’’

Galluccio has been down this difficult road before.

He was first convicted of drunken driving when he was 17, in 1984. Governor William F. Weld pardoned him nine years later, so when he was suspected of drunken driving a second time in 1997, he was charged as if it were the first. After both instances, he was ordered to undergo alcohol treatment programs, according to records at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Then, in 2005, he was blamed for a four-car accident near Faneuil Hall, and witnesses claimed he was drunk. He was never tested for sobriety on the scene, and a clerk-magistrate, while concluding that he had been drinking, did not find enough evidence to charge him, leading witnesses and members of the public to decry what they viewed as political favoritism.

A 42-year-old lawyer known to many as “Gooch,’’ Galluccio is the product of a politically active Cambridge family with working-class roots.

His father, an Italian immigrant who went to Harvard on a scholarship, met John F. Kennedy at college and went on to serve as his congressional campaign secretary. He then worked on Kennedy’s Senate campaign and later served on the Cambridge School Committee.

Galluccio’s father died when he was just 11 and some close to him say he had a tough time as a result. He is single, and in recent years, has spent much of his time serving as a coach and a mentor to kids. In addition to his work as a lawyer, he founded Galluccio Associates Inc., a nonprofit that sponsors athletic teams and awards college scholarships to players. He is a mentor at the City Links Program, an immigrant support group, and a strength and conditioning coach for the football team at his alma mater, Cambridge Rindge and Latin.

“The kids respect him - they look up to him,’’ said Rindge and Latin head football coach Joe Papagni, who said Galluccio helps players and their families in all sorts of ways - with finding summer jobs, low-cost apartments, and appointments with medical specialists, and, occasionally, with rides home. “They can count on him,’’ Papagni said, noting many of the young people are disadvantaged.

Galluccio first joined the Cambridge City council after a losing race: He was a runner-up who joined the council due to a vacancy. He served seven terms before becoming mayor in 2000. As mayor, he led efforts to build a new main branch library that just opened to positive reviews, as well as new sports facilities and tracks.

Galluccio had long had his eye on Beacon Hill. He ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 1996, and in 2002, he lost a tough campaign for an open Senate seat to Jarrett Barrios. He tried again in 2006, but dropped out when the 2005 crash became public and Barrios got back into the race and kept the seat.

When Barrios resigned in 2007, Galluccio ran again for the Senate seat and overwhelmingly won. He now represents Everett, Chelsea, and parts of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Revere, and Saugus, and he chairs the Joint Committee on Higher Education.

Now, even as a Charlestown lawyer has stepped up to run against him and others are contemplating a challenge, some of his constituents - who know him as a tireless advocate - are hoping he can make a political and personal turnaround.

Victoria McLaurin, 58, a longtime family friend who credits Galluccio for bringing her son back from the brink of personal crisis, said she is praying for him.

“All I can do is imagine him like my son,’’ McLaurin said of the senator. “My son tried to hide. Anthony can’t hide from this.’’

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at ebbert@globe.com.