Monday, September 08, 2008

It's Obvious — Chang-Díaz and Allen

Willie Mae, yes, and Sonia, yes.

I'm not so dull-witted as to miss the moderate contradiction in endorsing Willie Mae Allen for Six Suffolk Representative while rejecting Dianne Wilkerson for Second Suffolk Senator. Those are my calls though.

Willie Mae Allen will continue with her populist and cooperative service. What she is not is a great leader and bill originator. What she is is a fabulous team player, who votes correctly in my view and helps build consensus among legislators on issues big and wee. She also is the old-style pol with an open-door and willingness to work on troubles constituents bring to her.

Sonia Chang-Díaz is tomorrow's progressive today. We should not let her get away again, hoping to put her in office when the time is right. It is right now.

Of course, she is a reformer in strong contrast to the old-school Sen. Dianne Wilkerson. More than the clean version of the same thing, Chang-Díaz does not want to pander to corporations while putting citizens at health risks. She doesn't think that failed education programs should steam along because there's money (badly spent) there now. She is one of the new breed who can help advance the governor's proposals in progressive areas. Her time is now.

Try not. Do or do not.

Over at Ryan's Take, a couple of clips from the debate-like-event at the Wards 11 and 19 forum illustrate some key points. Nothing from the evening was more telling than Wilkerson's reply to the question about what she'd do to ensure compliance with the campaign-finance laws. She said she'd try her best.

That came from a politician who repeatedly broke those laws, was fined, under house arrest, and had to cut a plea bargain to avoid court, jail and expulsion. Perhaps she should turn to one of my figurative mentors, Yoda — Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.

I left out tons of quotes from the forum. An overview is here.

For the House race, challenger Kathy Gabriel is nice enough and terribly sincere. However, her ideas are quarter baked. She has no specifics and promises, like everyone else, to work very hard. Think of Yoda again.

On the Senate side, I'll lament once more that Wilkerson cancelled and would not reschedule her appearance for a Left Ahead! podcast. We don't bring on surprise guests or spring accusations on our casters. We were perfectly willing for months to have Wilkerson make her case.

We can work off her record though. Despite her disgraces and repeated, willful blunders, Wilkerson can't stifle back her ego and sense of entitlement long enough to accept responsibility. She has never apologized to voters. We can't know whether she was more honorable in cutting her plea deal with our attorney general. She continues to insist that her repeated violations of finance laws, bounced checks and failure to file taxes for years were accounting errors. The House of No Blame must be a pleasant place to live.

All of that in the air, I am also aware that a few of the criticisms I have of Wilkerson hold for Allen too. Neither is a leading sponsor of new, stand-alone legislation. Both pride themselves in earmarks and district pork. They have the old-fashioned attitude that those are just the way politics work.

"We" vs. "I"

Among the differences that lead me to endorse one and reject the other are how and why they play with others. Specifically, if you believe Wilkerson, the entire legislature is beholden to her for all that happens. Moreover, anything that benefits her district at all is directly attributable to her efforts. Her ego is the size of a Western state, perhaps Wyoming.

Endearingly at the candidate forum, Allen used "we" again and again. She prides herself in working with the rest of the House and her Senate colleagues to accomplish things together (the real way politics works and will continue to work).

This is a great election for many reasons, nationally, statewide and locally. The fundamental choice at top of the national level overshadows the rest. However, even down to the Second Suffolk Senate primary, we face a sharp divide. We see two candidates with many progressive positions. Yet, the choice should be easy. Let's go with the honest reformer.

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