Thursday, September 11, 2008

Local Rags Buffing Sonia

I don't have enough hair to pull out but I can still rend my garments over evaporating newspapers. For what it's worth in this lessened-print age, both Boston dailies have gone with the high-ethics progressive. Today the Globe and Tuesday the Herald endorsed Sonia Chang-Díaz.

The race for the Second Suffolk State Senator spot is fascinating — pitting candidates with very similar progressive goals. Incumbent Dianne Wilkerson has the right votes throughout her 16 years there. I've been following the contest since March, eager for the reform that Sonia promises.

Search this blog if you need some background. Head over to Left Ahead! for our April podcast with Sonia. Over there, we tried to get Dianne on for her counterpoint. Last month, she did schedule an interview, but backed out the day before and apparently has no interest in rescheduling.

Fellow podcaster Ryan Adams and I had a piece appear in Bay Windows calling for voters to replace Wilkerson. After all her legal and ethical failings, plus her seeming unwillingness to take any responsibility for what she insists on calling "accounting errors," it's time for change.

As the Globe editorial put it:
Wilkerson and Chang-Diaz agree on most of the issues. Chang-Diaz puts the matter succinctly: Why should voters in the 2nd Suffolk have to choose between solid policy positions and a commitment to ethics and accountability? They shouldn't.
The Herald, where the editors may not care for either of these lefties, wrote of the race:

Chang-Diaz is a ball of energy who in the course of two campaigns has shown spark and an admirable commitment to the district. She has rightly made an issue of Wilkerson’s past legal and ethical transgressions even when it risked some support.

Do we agree on every issue with Chang-Diaz? Not even close. But we are confident she has her constituents’ interests - and not her own - at heart.

I really wish Wilkerson had spoken with us. Throughout the campaign, she has played on her incumbency and said little beyond she's voted the right way and brought home earmarks to her district. Like an errant teen, she might have fared much better if she accepted blame for her failures and showed evidence she's not about to repeat her errors.

Unfortunately for us as well as her, humility doesn't seem to be her thing. At the recent Wards 11 and 19 candidate forum, an audience question for both candidates was what what they would do to enforce the campaign-finance laws. That was a clear cue for Wilkerson to admit how badly she had goofed up in violating those laws, leading to her fines and plea bargain with the Attorney General. Instead, she said she'd try her best.

In what should be a low-turnout primary next week, we'll find out if the voters demand more than a feeble "I'll try" from their Senator.

In terms of endorsements, the only missing one should come today. Bay Windows should act in its Thursday edition. As of this morning, the new BW is not online. It carried a news brief yesterday about how the old-line GLBT politicians rallied for Wilkerson. Indeed, she has managed to call in a lot of markers and get at least oral endorsements from many politicians and unions she has voted with and for previously.


Late Morning Update: Wowsers! Bay Windows did the right thing. They endorsed Sonia today. The editorial traces the efforts of GLBT organizations and pols for Wilkerson, but also cites the lapses. Moreover, they point to the same weak response to obeying ethics laws and rules. "It was a sad moment for those who have respected Wilkerson’s hard work over the years for the LGBT community. It was a moment in which we finally thought, 'Enough is enough.'"

The district newspaper with the greatest influence that endorsed Wilkerson was the Bay State Banner. Astonishingly, their editorial called her crimes "embarrassing mistakes." That makes repeated law violations sound like burping in front of the Queen of England.

It's a boost to Chang-Díaz to get the blessing of the two major dailies in the capital city. The days when such endorsements by themselves would swing elections are well past. (I recall as a child delivering the Danville, Virginia, Register and Bee papers, tossing them to the porches from my bicycle. I remember too as a teen when an endorsement from the Herald Tribune or NYT made or broke a candidate. ...no more.)

This race is unlikely to hinge on endorsements, from papers or pols. While I think Sonia's platform is better in several key aspects, I doubt policy comparisons by voters will make the difference either. Instead, among all the contests this year in Massachusetts, Second Suffolk Senate is the real touchstone for honest government.

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