Thursday, February 27, 2014

Falchuk pitches himself as smart, brave reformer

Ready for a new political party in MA? Well, Evan Falchuk is.

Ancillary stuff: He secured Political Designation status for the United Independent Party (UIP). The link on the Secretary of the Commonwealth's site goes to Falchuck's campaign one. By the bye, a designation requires signatures from 50 registered voters, does not require any number or percentage of votes cast to continue, and its members may not vote in a primary. However,  in theory, if a candidate for governor met the stringent requirements, public-financing matching funds would be available.

We at Left Ahead are dickering with his folk for a chat. Meanwhile, he appeared at Suffolk Law's Rappaport Center roundtable and has a campaign site.

At Suffolk, he stood out for several obvious reasons. He has a great shock of dark hair, perhaps suitable for one of the Hong Kong Cavaliers in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. More meaningful though, he is a personable campaigner. Unlike the typical of these roundtable guests, he did not arrive just at the 12:15 PM showtime. Instead, he worked the room, introducing himself, shaking hands and encouraging interaction.

Smart, brave reform

Placing himself in a netherworld — below the support and primary risk of a party, and separate from an independent candidate per se — Falchuk stands out with a good theme. I enjoy a sharp slogan and he delivers with smart, brave reform.

His platform on the campaign site details all that comprises. That theme lets him weave all related topics back to it. He also showed his one true routine of snark at the roundtable after starting with saying he was like other voters in being tired of having to choose the lesser of two evils. For motivation, he said, "When I go and I see candidates say why they are running for governor say, 'I'm ready' or 'I want to prove that I an redeem myself from some prior failure,' I say, 'That's interesting for you, but what does that have to do with any of  us?'"

His reform refrain goes to three key areas — politics, economy, and government. He gets to play the populism card in each area.

For example, in campaign finance, he definitely is in the money-is-not-speech clique. That includes a Constitutional amendment, in effect voiding Citizens United. For this commonwealth, he cited what he says is a built-in 15:1 advantage for big-party candidates. That is, the laws and regulations allow $15,000 per year per candidate for party folk and $1,000 for others, including him and his UIP. He calls this "a corrupt system."

For taxes, we are one of seven states with a flat tax. In our case, it is in our constitution (Article XLIV). He calls it "inherently regressive when it comes to the disposable money people have." He'd like to see an amendment changing that, plus a tax-modernization commission to update MA to a 21st Century tax code.

Refreshingly, he did not push the stereotypical fraud-waste-and-abuse buttons on spending. Instead, he said much of MA's money was misallocated. He cited such areas as funding for the homeless, and pledged a line-by-line examination of where money went.

On transportation, he had a couple of strong statements. For one, the train tracks in the Pioneer Valley were now straightened out and good enough for Amtrak. He'd like to see commuter trains moved there as the MBTA replaces them, to be used for local transit out there. For another, he's big on the South Coast rail project. He said it "has become a political hot button issue. It ought not be. We should go ahead and build it."

Health-care costs were as big an issue with him as with other gubernatorial candidates. He had a different view of the root of the problem — the continuing consolidation of hospitals into big systems, which then set prices as suits them. He took AG Martha Coakley and the whole Democratic administration to task for watching this happen and doing nothing. He pointed to the current effort of Partners to take over South Shore Hospital. He would like to stop that and decrease the geographic monopolies here.

He also noted that then Gov. William Weld and Charlie Baker (current candidate for governor and Weld's Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Administration and Finance) deregulated the health-care industry. That, Falchuk, says has led to 72% of market being controlled by a few health-care systems.

Not coincidentally, among his credentials is the past 13 years in executive positions at Best Doctors, Inc.

In education, he was the same and different as other candidates. He sees too much emphasis on teaching to standardized testing. He thinks government has a role in making sure kids get the skills they'll need from school. Where he diverges is in what he thinks students should come out of schools with, including:

  • independence
  • resilience
  • critical thinking skills
  • grit
  • knowledge that they can overcome obstacles

Those of course are much harder to measure than math proficiency. Those goals like so many he cited would require presenting them to a smart group of advisers, legislators and officials to ask the best way to get to them.

Getting there

Falchuk is relentlessly optimistic and enthusiastic. He definitely counts on his populist message to suck in voters. He noted that America from the beginning was "an experiment in government." He listed the problems and possible solutions, concluding "There is not a king or queen who's going to come down and do it for us. We have to do it."

To the obvious question of where he expects to find victory, he quipped that he only had "to get more votes" than the other candidates. He said he expected to go out and earn them, to convince voters in all his appearances that he could achieve what they all want.

For the two major parties, he added, "I never think of it as taking votes from anyone. I have to earn every single vote."

From my distance, I surmise that the future of the UIP and whether it will exist apart of Evan Falchuk depends entirely on how he pulls in November.

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