Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dem Auditor Would-Bes Did Not Come to Blows

Yesterday's three-way forum for Dem Auditor candidates got my attention. I rolled over to the Young Dems for the session with Suzanne Bump, Guy Glodis and Mike Lake. Even before it started, the blogger sitting next to me said he'd be paying a lot of attention to this particular race because it promised to be a lot of fun.

I ended up leaving from there and hitting a couple more political events, so I didn't post on it. When I looked around, I see that the blow-by-blow and salient comments already appear.
The latter also has another bit of drama. Glodis blew off the forum. Before we heard that, there was a half hour delay because Lake was in a traffic jam on Storrow according to his call. Then the hosts said Glodis' campaign called saying there was (unspecified) trouble at the jail, requiring the sheriff's presence.

Instead, the Telegram piece notes that Glodis accepted the forum but got a better offer, appearing at the AFSCME union convention in Auburn. He apparently told the reporter, "There were a ton of people there."

Meanwhile back in Chelsea among people who keep their commitments, Bump and Lake were ready to mix it up. Surprisingly, they did. It took Mara Dolan, attorney and host of the public-access program Right Here Right Now, to keep order. She was aplomb in heels.

I have pages of notes and a digital voice recording, but I feel free from my reportorial self to cat and chat it up a bit. The Young Democrats promised they'd put the video up in a couple of days. I'll link to that. The visuals should add to the joy.

3 Huge Down-Ballot Races

Truth be told, regular readers know that I've been heavy on the Treasurer and Secretary races. All three major down-ballot offices are important, with Treasurer and Auditor being up for grabs for the first time in many years.

Each and together, the offices could have huge impacts here. The Secretary is 16 years overdue for making public records accessible. The Treasurer might be a key force in helping our economy out of recession. The Auditor could return many millions of dollars to good uses and simultaneously restore citizens' faith in government operations.

I'll put up my endorsements for these another other offices tomorrow. Regardless of whether you have been desperately waiting for my opinions, get savvy and get to the polls Tuesday and again on November 2.

Suit to Suit

Bump was early to the event, a trait I tend to exhibit and one I admire. She squirreled away to eat her yogurt snack and chat the pluses and minus on round v. pointed toe dress shoes with a couple of Dem women. When several of us print/online sorts were comparing our live-blogging experience, she chatted us up. That was not only smart, but exposed us to her simultaneously gracious and intense manner.

Before we heard that Goldis was no-go, we got to consider Lake's presence as well. The candidates helped here. Seeing the carpet cavern from the wordsmiths to them, they asked for the tables to abut, so we were almost within arm-wrestling range.

It turns out Bump and Lake had such strong differences, I thought perhaps they could well resort to that. He's scrawny and maybe she could take him. Such as the thoughts of bloggers delayed.

The physical can be important in such races, particularly where there is no incumbent. Here, Bump owns the stump.

She and Dolan could well have been a pair of salad forks. They were well matched in muted light business suits and low heels. They were elegant, attractive and confident. In fact, even when she and Lake went at each other verbally, Bump radiated confidence and competence. That was reasonable, considering her substantial experience as legislator, lawyer, cabinet officer and lobbyist.

I think of lunch with the FT where small details of dress or mannerism appear. Bump is carefully studied and put together, as befitting the office she wants. She kept relaxed hands folded or fingers touching and always on the table or accenting points with motion.

She wore simple accessories — small gold earrings, no necklace, a little gold watch, and a thick but plain wedding band.

Likewise, Lake came plain. He wore a simple blue jacket and blue shirt. The latter did have French cuffs and subtle but handsome pair of cuff links. He had a manly large watch but no obvious jewelry. Both of them seemed about their messages and presentations.

Both are trim and angular, and in contrast to the absent sheriff. I met him at Deval Patrick/Tim Murray's campaign launch in JP. He can't help being pink and strawberry blond. He presents in contrast to the other two like a cartoon character, perhaps Porky Pig. As an intermittently chubby guy myself, I can't be too judgmental. Then again I can. He should have to bring a strong, very believable message, more so than if he were also slick and conventionally handsome.

Nose to Nose

I may transcribe and type up a second post with some of the specific dialog. My key takeaway is how wired and even testy Bump and Lake got several times during the forum.

Regular readers know that I'm not a fan of this dreadful forum tread. This extremely time-limited questioning of each candidate in turn may cover a lot of topics, but it precludes substance far too often. Even in Chelsea, one or the other would be perking along when one of the Young Dems keeping time would be cutting them off. On a couple of questions, Bump would first have to explain the basic concept involved in the office operation before getting to her answer. There was no accommodation for that and she and the audience got shorted.

Regardless, sparks flew.

Lake seems terrifically young, with the connotation of inexperience. One of his key ways of addressing that is volume. He speaks in a radio voice at all times — clear and very loud. That's OK to advance credibility, but a bit shocking three feet away.

Bump was occasionally condescending, but not nastily. She can unroll a much longer list of experience and more impressive numbers. That is, how many supervised, how large budgets, how many legislative committees chaired, how many bills passed and on and on. Perhaps most obvious coming into the primary, Lake has the Boston Herald's endorsement. Bump has the Globe plus maybe a dozen other papers, plus many state and Congressional legislators.

In experience, Lake seemed understandably defensive and inflationary. He just doesn't have the C.V. outside of academics and his office management under Pres. Bill Cllinton.

That bubbled over several times. She let him and us know that she had by far the verifiable experience edge. He seemed to equate his supervision of volunteers and students. They both sniped. Neither backed down. Dolan kept her cool and stifled the little battles by giving each in turn shorter and shorter time for rebuttal.

Bump was clearly irritated and impatient at a couple of points, but Lake could have handled himself much better. He seemed upset out of proportion to the dialog.

Real Issue

Of substance, a recurring theme emerged in the not-quite debate. Lake repeatedly made light of Bump for the forensic emphasis she puts on the auditor function. He'd be far more forward looking, which is where he sees the value added.

She on the other hand sounded again like an experienced manager. The audits give first a baseline for an agency or other oversight target and then comparisons from audit to audit. Moreover, an audit that reveals substantial problems should bring greater diagnosis, treatment and remedies. This latter part where what all Auditor candidates stress as short-term ways to find waste, inefficiency and even criminal actions that can result in savings to the commonwealth — money that can go to good purposes.

In addition to her government record in the legislature and cabinet, Bump is in the position of saying we should look at her record. She also seemed savvier about particulars, detailing areas where the office and return millions to the government.

Lake puts himself in the unenviable position of saying to believe him, that his less-reactive view will do better. Even when he suggested that her time in lobbying for insurance-related causes showed a conflict, he came up against her experience. She said to look at her years running committees on Beacon Hill and running Labor and Workforce Development for the past three years.

There have not been conflicts, even with her husband in vaguely related business. This line parallels her position on audits. Examine the record and recheck as needed.

In this delightful campaign season, I find myself humming Joan Osborne's Dracula Moon. In particular, the first verse ends, ""Serve me up some pretty, pretty people. Serve me up somebody I can believe."

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