Friday, September 05, 2008

Cookies and Candidates, Wards 11 and 19

With the snack-and-chat session, last evening's three-hour candidate forum still moved fairly well. Boston Wards 11 and 19 squeezed in the candidates for Governor's Council, Sixth Suffolk Rep. and Second Suffolk Senate.The English High auditorium was well under half full, but it was an attentive bunch who sat through it all.

From the applause and other reaction, most of us were there for the main bout, Sen. Dianne Wilkerson v. Sonia Chang-Díaz. There were clear partisans for each.

In case you haven't been to a Dem primary ward forum, don't get too excited. They aren't debates, much less free-for-all events. They take turns with opening statements and then each answering the same questions, all under very tight time limits — never more than three minutes per intro and as little as one minute to answer a heavy question.

Moreover, the norm for the ward committees is to endorse the incumbent. They are in the core of the political machine after all. Many seem to be government employees. They are the workhorses who attend the monthly meetings, produce the mailings, organize the phone banks and on and on. They do have a strong interest at the same time in keeping things working just the way they are.

In the Second Suffolk in particular, a few people expressed surprise how quickly Ward 5 held its forum and gave Wilkerson their endorsement with the required 2/3 or more vote. Two different long-time political observers from Boston told me separately to expect more of the same, that this shows how out of touch with the voters most Ward Committees are.

Plethora of Pols

Regardless, we only got whiffs and nibbles of the candidates in the abbreviated and restricted formats. Yet, we left knowing a lot more than we came, even if we had visited the websites and spoken with the office seekers on our stoops or by the pastries (provided by John Tobin) before the event.

At the very least, we got a personal sense of how they comport themselves. We all like to pretend we are great judges of character. There were a lot of characters on the stage.

We got to see pairings of:
  • Governor's Councillor for two districts. The Second and Fourth Councillor Districts dip into 11 and 19. So we got four candidates, with an additional no-show.
  • Six Suffolk State Rep. That's Rep. Willie Mae Allen and Faustina Kathy Gabriel (she goes by her middle name).
  • Second Suffolk State Senator. This is what I've been following, with Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and Sonia Chang-Díaz.
The legislature spots will be in separate post here. I'll update the results when the Ward bosses get back to me with them.

Judge Pickers

The Councillors are yetis to most of us. We hear they exist and there is evidence, in this case not scat but a regular replacement of judges and such. Yet we seldom see or hear them.

Part of the reason for this is that while these last night represent Boston, they cover a lot of turf. Most are from out there somewhere. Specifically, for the Second District, we heard from incumbent Kelly Timilty from Dedham and Robert Jubinville from Milton. For the Fourth District, the no show was Hull's Stephen Flynn, with incumbent Chris Iannella Jr. from JP and Robert Toomey Jr. from Abington playing themselves on stage.

I'm a simple man from the land the maple trees, so I can react viscerally. I noticed that in both races, there were two very disparate philosophies represented. To drive this clearly, we saw that we had a governmental functionary (the incumbent) and an ex-cop (the challenger).

Timilty is not a public speaker, although she seems quite capable of considering people for the bench and ruling 0n commutations and such. The other incumbent is the very affable Ianella, who looks and acts like a good drinking buddy. Yet, the straight and jolly in their turns expressed similar mindsets. For all citizens, the key to good judges, magistrates and such is ensuring you pick the fairest minded ones.

In contrast, the two ex-lawmen challengers seemed to want to lock 'em up. A judge needs to protect citizens against the bad guys. Like the incumbents, these two came in different flavors as well. Jubinville was pretty slick and Toomey was much more like a stereotypical accountant. Yet, they stressed similar law-enforcement angles for the Councillors' tasks.

I have heard from Ward 11. They passed on the Councillors and made no endorsements.

On to the legislators.

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