Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sonia, Then Barack

Ululations, long, loud and high, had the Alchemist's heavily tattooed barkeep palming her ears. When Sonia Chang-Díaz won the September primary, the same pint puller confessed to all that she really didn't like like high volume celebrations.

I'm am sure that big Obama supporter Chang-Díaz didn't mind in the slightest that her resounding victory in the Second Suffolk Senate race was suddenly old news. Somehow her becoming a reform and change winner was only good to the great. At 11:07 when CNN projected that Barack Obama would win the presidency, the tongue trilling wails of joy resounded.

Earlier in the day, I ran into Sonia's mother as she left the polling place where I worked. Out on the street, we had a brief exchange. I told her that I had visited both her daughter's and Dianne Wilkerson's campaign headquarters on Monday. I said I had wished Sonia a big win, like 85% or even low 90s, but Sonia said she'd be happy with just a win. Her mother said she wanted a large victory too.

There were stickers and write-ins, but it Chang-Díaz did come heavy. The early results had her up about 93% to 5% for Socialist Workers Party candidate William Leonard and a few for Wilkerson. That was before Dianne-heavy precincts started coming in.

At my polling place in JP, the counts were 987 for Chang-Díaz, 59 for Leonard and 13 write-ins. The sticker and write-in ballots spit into a separate slot in the voting machines and require hand tabulation and recording. Probably when it is fully settled Chang-Díaz will end up with 80% or more.

A good symbol for Wilkerson's political coma and Chang-Díaz' awakening is that state Rep. Byron Rushing was at the Alchemist. He had been a long-term Wilkerson supporter and endorser, until September's primary. Then like the governor, senate president and speaker of the house, he joined in endorsing Chang-Díaz.

Now Obama has that absurd and hugely unenviable task of trying to fix eight years of dull-witted, mean-spirited incompetence that has been the Bush administration. Chang-Díaz has a very scaled-down set of challenges. She doesn't have to confront gigantic economic problems, just big ones, and people don't look to her as the chief fixer.

Sonia really has two jobs as senator-elect. The hardest will start even before she announces staff or agenda. She has to go back to those neighborhoods and their leaders she has visited so many times in both her 2006 and the current campaign. Many want more face time and ear time with her. She's going to have to take a lot of notes, hear their side, give hers and go for understanding.

For a subset in some precincts, Chang-Díaz doesn't get the benefit of a clean slate. I bet there going to be quickly surprised. I bet that Chang-Díaz works better and more effectively with other legislators in both chambers and the district wins quickly and regularly.

Wilkerson's most vocal supporters like to call her our queen. They're going to like swapping an aristocratic authority figure for a politically and socially savvy senator with the right positions.

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