Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What's to Learn at Chang-Diaz and Wilkerson Sites

Folk tend to think they really, really know about Dianne Wilkerson. As Second Suffolk Senator since 1993, she has a record. Yet, clicking through her campaign site and challenger Sonia Chang-Díaz' furrows the brow.

For Chang-Díaz, it's logical. She has never been a legislator. For Wilkerson though, the quick impression is that she has done tons. Even a brief look into her electrons says otherwise.

If they begin to get serious about debates, folk might not have to dig around for good information about them, particularly Wilkerson. However, it's likely smart for Wilkerson to minimize the debates and not be too specific about her record, legislative and otherwise.

The challenger ought to be all over her though. Having met and done a podcast with Sonia (please call me Sonia), I doubt she'll get nasty though. She is super nice and very well mannered.

Many in the same spot would be quick to point to the admitted and implied crimes of the incumbent. Chang-Díaz plays that low, perhaps for fear of backlash. She speaks of the important of ethics and even not being distracted from senatorial duties.

Unlike two years ago when she first ran against Wilkerson, Chang-Díaz has the benefit of fresh news and a plea bargain. Those give her a campaign advantage, although she may squander them if she is too nice.

So, Sonia lays out her professional and personal background. For the professional (including such political spots as legislative aide to the Sen. Cheryl Jacques, herself popular in the GLBT community), she must suggest she can step right into the Beacon Hill culture.

Likewise, she must lay out comprehensive and specific policies and proposals. Voters need such promises to reject an incumbent.

In person and on her website and Senate page, Wilkerson is obscure. She seems to have no professional life from law school until the Senate. Likewise, her legislative history is long on pet projects and grants, while short on leadership, sponsorship, coalition building and such lawmaker skills you'd expect from a long-term incumbent.

Wilkerson avoids too much public discussion of her troubles or promises if reelected. That's likely a very smart way to approach this contest for her. So if you looked over the two candidates' sites, what might you learn?




Open, lots of white space, red/white/blue. Pic of her and one of statehouse. Very usable menu choices up top.


A bit jumbled with too much info at once and too small fonts. Find poll place and register to vote buttons smart touches. Menus fairly hidden. Nearly six minute video in sidebar of her speaking on repeal of 1913 law set repeal.

Personal and detailed bio. She was a public school teacher. She was raised by her mother. Her father was an astronaut. She’s been an aide to a state senator and director of a fiscal-policy think tank.


Her bio is minimal. She’s an attorney and belongs to a list of organizations. There’s no career information except her senatorship from 1993.

Nine themes, all progressive, but most lacking specifics for implementation.


She has a “Key Policies” choice listing four legislative appointments.

25 articles on three pages from a wide variety of sources (including Left Ahead), mostly detailing her positions and campaign.

News Clips

Ten wire or newspaper articles that mention her, all related to same-sex marriage.

Five releases, three bureaucratic (kickoff and staff), one in Spanish of her marching in the Puerto Rican day parade, and one about Wilkerson’s plea bargain.

Press Releases

Two releases, one bureaucratic (kickoff) and one on testifying for repeal of 1913 set of marriage laws.

One video and six slide shows, plus 18-slides in the home sidebar.


Just the few embedded on home and in left sidebar.

List of eight types of volunteer roles, with complete ID and contact for volunteer.

Get Involved

Obscure top choice with same form as contact — name, address, email, phone neighborhood and comment box. It suggests calling local office and links to the neighborhood numbers.

Mail and HQ addresses and phones. Email address and form with three concerns/comments boxes.


Fill in form with name, address, email, neighborhood and comment/question box. Separate media query form.

English/Spanish, but limited utility. Does not work with news, PR, get involved, contact or donate choices

Language Toggle

Kind of hidden toggle at very top, black on blue. Limited utility. All accomplishment bilingual.

Large button on every page, leading off-site to ActBlue, with $20 to $500 and other


Small button on every page, leading to off-site PayPal and credit options, with $5 to $500, but payment form blank

Does not apply


Strength of her site is in the list of earmarks per neighborhood. About half have these, but many do have pet projects she claims to have delivered. Most are “working on.”

Does not apply

State and Regional Initiatives

Similar list of bills passed or in the works. On nearly all of these, she voted for or was a team player on, but did not propose or lead.

This is a weak point so far. She could use some meaningful endorsements.


She has a long list. Odd is that the only senate member is the president. She has a good set of unions, most of Boston city council, but only seven state reps.

In many ways, the websites are superb indicators of what you'd get with the candidates. We can muse on how geeky the constituents are (probably not very) and how influential the web presence of each will be (essential, but likely less than papers and more important street talk).

Those looking for more than Wilkerson is offering will see that she clearly understands bringing home bacon for the locals. Those wanting leadership will be very disappointed. Like many in both houses, she is eager to claim connections with any popular legislation, even though she leads on virtually none of them. That may or may not be enough this time around.

While Wilkerson's site doesn't go into many of the bills she has introduced, there's a linked list ao openmass.org. These are very localized in the main, but show she's not asleep.

Chang-Díaz may have the benefit of Wilkerson's increasingly stained reputation, but she also does not have the track record, particularly of bringing the grants. Interest groups from unions through GLBT organizations seem very wary of calling for reform. Again, it's the devil they know, whose votes they trust.

Surely more important than keyboards this time will be doorbells though. Chang-Díaz, her enthusiastic mom and other volunteers are ringing the bells and calling the phones throughout the large and geographically dispersed district. The last time, Wilkerson was arrogant and squeaked by with the help of inertia. This time, it may come down to how impressed people are face to face with the challenger and how sick they are of the scandals of the incumbent.

Part One on Wilkerson's distractions is here.

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Anonymous said...

You are so desperate for Dianne to lose, it's rather pathetic. Instead of talking about Dianne so much, maybe, just maybe you should talk about why Sonia would be a better Senator. Do you remember when Sonia mailed those flyers outlining all of Dianne's past issues? It didn't work for her and it won't work for you. Everyone knows that Dianne has issues. Tell US something that we don't already know. Surely there must be some other politician to talk about in addition to Dianne. Why do you hate her so much? I challenge you to sell your candidate without talking about Wilkerson Woe's! I bet you can't, because all you have to sell your candidate on is Wilkerson's issues. You need to check yourself...You Democrats are the biggest hypocrites. Always dogging the Republicans when you're just as bad. There is enough trash in the Democratic Party in MA to go around, yet you're intent on dogging Dianne only.

massmarrier said...

That's pretty confused Worcesterite anon, particularly with the Pee-wee Herman style I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I Dem slurs. Everyone involved here is a Democrat anyway.

Yet to your question woven through, first, Wilkerson has made herself the issue here. Both candidates have very similar positions. However, Wilkerson doesn't seem to state specific policies or even set goals or make promises. Chang-Díaz has had to be a lot more definitive about policy.

Second, in my various posts on this fascinating race, I stress that Wilkerson has a terrific advantage in being an incumbent who has a long history of bringing earmarked grants home.

The real question for voters is that with two candidates ID'ed as progressive, how significant are the ethical/legal/moral issues here. Traditionally they have not decided Boston-area or Massachusetts elections. They may not this time either. Inertia often holds.

Yet, fellow podcaster Ryan Adams and I have made no secret that those ethical issues are important to us. We have a piece in today's Bay Windows precisely on that.

We would still love to have Wilkerson come on our Left Ahead! podcast. (She set a date and backed out, with a promise to resked.) We're kind of mousy too and never trick guests with out-of-nowhere questions, surprise accusations or hostile guests. She'd be welcome to say why voters should return her to the Senate.

Second Suffolk is fortunate in not having to choose between good, progressive representation or mature and honorable representative.

Most people seem to think Wilkerson will win. We don't think that would be a disaster, but we see detailed policy from Chang-Díaz, ideas and proposals we can hold her accountable for accomplishing or at least advancing. That's a big improvement over the trust-me attitude.