Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hard Primary Choices

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have two presumptive Presidential nominees, but come Tuesday, September 16th, Massachusetts Dem voters have some brow-furrowing decisions. I think immediately of the Second Suffolk's Senate and 35th Middlesex House contests.

Lefties I know in other states tend to moan that they have little choice. If there is a favored candidate for state office, there are also many but and if-only qualifiers. I would love to hear of other states where voters face a similar delicious dilemma as in those two districts. There are two progressive candidates in each.

There's no Republican in the races, either, so the Dem primary winner is in. It might be nice to have a real two-party race here. Then again, as in the 35th Middlesex, there sort of is. Incumbent Rep. Paul Donato is a DINO, against choice, same-sex marriage, and stem-cell research among others.

See the Dem slate here and the GOP one here.

Over at Left Ahead!, we have spoken with the two 35th challengers, Pat McCabe and Jim Caralis. We had Second Suffolk challenger Sonia Chang-Díaz in April and ended up discussing incumbent Dianne Wilkerson in her absence yesterday when she postponed on Monday. We still hope to have her on before the primary and will accommodate her sked.
Link note: All four candidate links are to MP3 files of their podcasts. They should open your default player. Alternately, right click to save to disk and play at your leisure or go to Left Ahead! to use our player on these shows.
It is probably delusional to project these two districts for November, either in the commonwealth or nation. I'd love to see them as indicators of a shift away from states' and Congressional DINOs and conservatives. They might be, but we have no real evidence of that and can't until after the big election.

Locally though, we have the same and different. In each of these races, there are two progressives against each other. In one though, it's a challenger with the unenviable task of unseating an incumbent. She's stressing that voter don't need to choose between good votes and ethical behavior. The incumbent doesn't bother with promises or platforms, just saying, "Look at all I've done for you."

In the other, the incumbent is almost certain to fall and the choice is head to head with candidates with similar platforms. One (Jim Caralis) opposes casinos strongly, but otherwise, the voter has to listen and look closely to pick.

I acknowledge that some folk have told me I moralize too much on the Second Suffolk side. That may be true in that I do apply a moral filter here. My Left Ahead! chum Ryan though has asked from a civics viewpoint the same question, as in why hasn't Wilkerson been tossed from office after many offenses, fines, a little jail time, and now a plea deal.

Neither of us seems to represent the typical voter in her district though, and even some of her organizational supporters. She campaigns on, very sensibly, her record of bring home bacon in the form of neighborhood pleasing grants. Lobbyists and interest groups like MassEquality support her as a senator whose vote and voice they can count on for their big issues without question.

That can be the hold-your-nose toughie in this district. It may not even be a problem for some though. Those grants and consistent legislative support for GLBT, housing and other issues are plenty for some. Bringing in the grants for cultural centers or events is what matters to others.

Oddly, Chang-Díaz seems to be making less of an issue about moral and legal shortcomings this time than she did two years ago. It seems with the recent plea deal by Wilkerson that she'd ask those ethics questions often and loudly.

Come 9/16, Second Suffolk voters may be happy with more of the same or may look for at least as good without the distractions and mistakes. In contrast, those in the 35th are offered the near certainty of a real change for progressivism. It's a shame only one of the new guys and win.

If Obama doesn't win and the Dems don't pad their Congressional totals, I'll feel a lot less sanguine about the nation. Right now, it's looking fine both nationally and here.

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