Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Senate Seekers on the Edge

In terms of candidate endorsements, the closest we have had to power has come from the wheezing Boston Globe. Neither the media nor other politicians nor unions have the power to make voters smudge the ovals.

In my favorite race — Second Suffolk Senate — the last two endorsements with any power at all will likely come between Thursday (Bay Windows) and Sunday or Monday (Globe). The Herald has just gone for the reform candidate (Sonia Chang-Díaz) over the what-me-apologize? one (incumbent Dianne Wilkerson).

Let's remember that in much of the country and even the commonwealth, voters don't have a choice between candidates with largely great progressive positions. We do in this race, and we also end up with the chance to show how serious we are about honest government.

On her side, Wilkerson has had a long list of endorsements for months. She's added only a couple since the initial set, but if you're counting, her stack is much, much higher. Cynics say she put the squeeze on other politicians, calling in markers for past votes. Regardless, she has everyone from John Kerry to Deval Patrick to Tom Menino.

Such endorsements have no magic and can backfire. Yet with accident-watching fascination, I await the other two main media endorsements. The Back-Bay folk who have not noticed this race over the months a few of us have been clamoring may let the Globe decide for them. Likewise, some in the South End and GLBT communities may take a cue from BW. They've already been primed by very recent news in print and in the air.

I can't believe it has taken the media this long to do any decent coverage. Voters have gotten better service from Talking Politics and at Universal Hub.

Even the black-oriented Bay State Banner has been soft on this. Surprisingly for a regularly socially conservative and morality pushing editorial page, the Banner's recent endorsement of Wilkerson highlighted the pivot here. They look at the earmarks she's produced and some progressive votes to conclude, "When one considers the good that Wilkerson does, the admittedly embarrassing mistakes she has made seem petty by comparison. "

Whether voters, of any racial or cultural background, consider Wilkerson's crimes and failure to take responsibility for many years as petty mistakes will determine who wins this primary. The degree of morality fatigue suffered by her traditional voters, particularly in Roxbury, will couple with another key circumstance. We don't have a gubernatorial contest, the presidential race does not come into play, and voter motivation is low.

Chang-Díaz has the cash at the moment to get people to the polls. On her side, Dianne has traditional helpers like labor unions and a moderate organization on her side. On the stealth side, Chang-Díaz' remarried astronaut dad has been largely in his home of Costa Rico, but her mom has been everywhere.

A Chang-Díaz staffer told me that Sonia's mother is the campaign's secret weapon. She has been tireless in walking the streets, ringing doorbells and calling for her daughter's victory and the reform she expects from it. At last week's candidate forum, Sonia told me her previously shy mother astounded her in transforming for the campaign.

Next week will see the battle of inertia, of two types. We know that even ill-served and deceived voters resist and fear change. That is to Wilkerson's advantage. On the other hand, getting folk from their workplaces and homes to polling locations has to overcome inertia as well. If they don't trust Wilkerson, her incumbency will count for little in moving them.

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