MA State Senate candidate Mara Dolan came out of her chrysalis last night. At her campaign kickoff in Concord, she broke lose from her natural reserve.
I try to remain objective about campaigns where our Left Ahead show wants to interview numerous candidates, as is the case here. I'm chasing at least two more running for 3rd Middlesex (Mike Barrett and Alex Buck). My policy is not to donate time or money to those I'll cover on LA or here. Of course, if I endorse a candidate, I thereafter add a disclaimer when mentioning them.
Dolan was on LA recently; her show is here.
I've known Dolan in various contexts over the past several years. She is a good interviewer on her own local public-access program Right Here Right Now. Her evenhanded and intelligent manner makes her an excellent debate moderator, as she was in the last commonwealth auditor's contest. She's been on LA before running for office, speaking of EmergeMassachusetts among other matters.
As much as I can be out there, often describing myself as a pinko, Dolan is normally restrained. We share many progressive values, but she is no shouter.
Thus in our recent show with her, Ryan and I felt she could have and should have elaborated more and even bragged a bit about her positions. We wondered why she didn't differentiate herself more. Also, we came in a bit at a disadvantage because she did not have a published platform and her website was a shell with a splash screen.
Well, no more. The campaign site is fully fleshed out. As befitting someone with her video background from her own show, her Issues section is a series of vids on major topics. Each cuts right to essentials and follows the new media rules of being short (under a minute here). She doesn't pad and you know what she believes and would do. Good stuff.
Last evening, before she spoke, I mingled with Concordians and Lexingtonians. The room had an odd blend of old men, a good range of middle-aged women and a few younger sorts (including former treasurer candidate Mike Lake), among the 60 or so present.
Those I chatted up all loved Sen. Susan Fargo, whose decision not to run again prompted the flurry of contestants. About half had not met or heard Dolan before. Those who had told me they had caught her at a candidates' forum or such and two said they gone from neutral to supporting her after seeing her in action. Oddly, the locals seem not to have seen her TV show.
From the start, she came on like a real candidate. She promised to hit her big issues of jobs, education and health care. She did both in specifics and with passion. Some, like the economy, came with solid slogans, like how to get companies to come to MA, stay in MA and grow in MA. In other words, she used rhetoric well.
Family played too. Her college-age daughter, Grace Ames, introduced her, briefly and with obvious respect and affection. Dolan returned those and later drew attention to her parents including stepfather in the audience, both in person and to illustrate points about education. She turned over the family cards without being cheesy or exploitative.
She faltered briefly only once. She misted and choked up a bit when speaking of how she wants to inspire girls to strive for achievement even when people tell them they won't succeed. "We will not be stopped," she said. That tied in with her very reasonable assertion that voters should not replace one of six women in the 40 Senate seats with a man.
She also managed to integrate her caring and cooperation angles well. That seemed a little vague in her LA show, but she used education as an example. She defined herself as a proud progressive and said that her proposals to improve education were broad. She said her supporters, "These good people don't just want these things for themselves. They want them for everyone."
She briefly touched on her support for progressive tax reform,single-payer health care, public-sector unions, rebuilding MA infrastructure, and education with the aim of turning kids into life-long learners. She has the essentials of her positions on these down pat. Start to finish, no one would likely say she was unclear or reserved.
It was a butterfly moment.