Thursday, September 14, 2006

Undertaker v. Pixie

He looks like an undertaker or a restaurateur. (Why do so many funeral homes look like restaurants, anyway?) She's the withered pixie.

Surely you've seen a movie where the pushy extrovert interrupts his job interview to change everything. He boldly, loudly announces that they are filling the wrong job and proceeds to describe a position that suits his ambitions.

It's a bold stroke, nearly always leading to the blowhard on his way out the door.

At the Wards 11 and 19 candidate forum Tuesday, we got to see that on stage. Playing the lead was chronic politician Maura Hennigan. She's about to see the door.

Arguably the best theater at the forum was this debate for the Democratic slot for Clerk of Suffolk Superior Court for Criminal Business. Robert Dello Russo is an assistant clerk in the same office, looking to move up to the chief (and elected not appointed) job. Maura Hennigan, long-term fourth banana Boston City Councilor and failed mayoral contestant (we have lovely parting gifts for you, Maura) is the actress.

It's tempting to think this is Maura's dying aria. She Peter Principled as councilor and was shocked, shocked to discover that voters vastly preferred Da Mare to Da Maura. She mortgaged and remortgaged her properties in that race.

After failing, she inexplicably picked this clerk's spot to relaunch and redefine her political self. Forget that she has no experience or expertise here. She has attitude. Forget that she is running against a guy who actually understands the job and its duties, as well as the players. She's not coloring in the lines here.

Over at her site, you can see the basis for her debate -- a five-step program for the clerk's job. That's right, the job isn't big enough for the likes of our wrinkled elf. She figures to nearly double its duties and resources. What the public needs, wants and deserves is Maura doing community outreach and education (gives us chills, just thinking).

Yeah, yeah, expediting cases and helping those in the criminal court process is okay, and that's what Della Russo knows about. But this is Maura, the Maura, we're talking about. She knows better and bigger.

Well she is loud and brash. She has great conviction, if you can use that term with this job.

Della Russo is low key and soft-spoken. He must be only part Italian-American. He modifies the stereotype by only talking with his right hand.

His great and defining moment came not when he was patiently explaining the real job to clarify Maura's generalizations. Instead, during his closing remarks, he looked at Maura's five-steps and said that three of those were already accomplished.

Then he deadpanned the capper. He said he'd remain clerk, "as long as you elect me. I won't be running for any other office beyond this clerkship." Oh, snap.

A lesser candidate than Maura might have fled the stage in shame. She squinted her little raisin eyes and smiled.

Lord knows what she's going to do after losing this one. We haven't heard the last of her.

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