Friday, September 27, 2013

Savvy Survey of Boston Elections

Predicting "a fierce, epic battle," Mary Anne Marsh joined in delighted anticipation of our mayoral final. The principal at the Dewey Square Group was one of four pundits at last night's Ford Hall Forum. She said the race now will be between big business against big labor – John Connolly v. Marty Walsh.

The whole 90-minute event will appear, supposedly soon, on the Forum's YouTube channel as well as Comcast on demand. The others commenting were Larry DiCara, partner at Nixon Peabody, ex-City Councilor, one-time mayoral candidate and keen political observer; John Nucci, a Suffolk VP and holder of numerous elected offices; and Globe columnist Joan Vennochi.

We were rocked into a political stupor by the gentility of the dozen candidates leading up to the preliminary this week. Nucci agreed that was suddenly over, just beginning with the sniping with Connolly asking to ban outside money and Walsh replying that "This is a great second act in John’s ongoing piece of political theater. This is what corporate lawyers do."

I had to chuckle, first at the abruptness and low tone of the comment. Second, it may not be the brightest tack to come down on a lawyer with a Harvard bachelor's. Those may be tainted in Walsh-land, but they are credible credentials to many local voters. They are also two things Walsh is not and he drew keen attention to them.

Despite what we've gotten used to recently, "These are two candidates who love to slug it out," said Nucci (pic right with Marsh). Also, despite my hope this would not be nasty, class-based fighting, several on stage said it was likely to be. Marsh predicted that Connolly would try to defuse allegations that he was a bag man for corporations, using his education message. Likewise, Walsh will try to mute suggestions that he is a unions pawn by touting his middle-class roots and emphasis.

They mused on who didn't get into the final and why. As always, DiCara had the background and numbers — he loves to analyze and calculate. Despite expectations that Boston's shift to a majority-minority city, that isn't fully in electoral effect. He noted that like previous generations when the young and non-citizen Italians and Irish couldn't vote and didn't impact elections, the many Latinos are similar today. The Census may show many more immigrants of color, but they can't vote...yet.

So, Charlotte Golar Richie either did superbly coming in third or totally blew it with a vague, late-starting, uninspiring, message-less campaign, depending on your view. Vennochi's only swell saying of the night was that the candidate was unable to craft a message beyond her "only slogan (being) I am woman. Hear me roar." DiCara (pic left) said she didn't give her supporters "a great reason to vote for her." Nucci suggested that if Richie had organized efficiently with GOTV efforts, "she'd be running for mayor today."

DiCara broke down the preliminary voting patterns. He noted that about one third of registered voters are residents of color, but they did not and will not vote monolithically. Moreover, in a low turnout day, it was the traditional voters who showed, the older, white ones. The young, the black and the Latino did not. He figured that more voters will go to polls in November but not an appreciably greater percentage of the young and those of color. When the choice comes down to two white progressives, there isn't even an identity incentive.

For why two Irish-American men are in the final, Marsh had the incisive view. "They've been preparing for years." It's not enough to use identity politics or even to want to be mayor deeply. "You can't jump into a race at the last minute...You earn your opportunity."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

In Hawaii, Aloha Ipo (Maybe)

It could be "Hello, lover," on the shiny beaches if the special legislative session in Hawaii finally seals the deal.

Our Pacific paradise was was early (1996) with a court decision that forbidding same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. As became the pattern in the rest of the U.S., winger and anti-gay panic kicked in quickly. The court put its decision on hold and within two years, the now familiar one-man/one-woman constitutional amendment passed. [Subsequently, public opinion went from 70% for the amendment to about 54% for SSM and 37% opposed.]

As the public noted civil unions and gay marriage working well in other states, the panic subsided. By 2010, both houses of the legislature passed a civil unions bill, but the conservative, Republican governor vetoed it.

The next year, with a new, Dem, progressive governor (Neil Abercrombie), the bill returned, passed and became law.

Now, he is pushing for the real thing. Over the objections of Roman Catholic and some Protestant clerical pols, he wants a special session just to do that. His marriage bill goes straight to the artificial scare tactics of the anti people. In excruciating detail, it iterates and reiterates what state law already covers. No one empowered to solemnize marriages will be compelled to perform same-sex ones nor suffer any criminal or civil penalty for declining. Moreover, churches and religious institutions won't have to rent or give use of their religious facilities to same-sex couples for weddings or receptions.

It doesn't say, but federal and state law also comes into play here. Where a real or nominally religious organization operates its facilities for-profit and rents to the public, they have to obey anti-discrimination rules. They have a choice of making as much money as they can from all comers or limiting their facilities to just their religious types.

We can be pretty sure that the fruitbats who have claimed without any basis and perhaps even with full knowledge of dishonesty that churches and clerics will be forced to sanction gay marriages will not ease off. Just because the new version of the law gives them all the exemptions they could ask for, that's not really what it's about.

It's like that inane set of claims (like marriage being only for making children) this is really just about being able to arbitrarily hurt, hamper and harm homosexuals. It appears as though Gov. Abercrombie has no patience for that.

Voter-Harvest Time in Boston

We political wonks are delighted that the scrum of a dozen Boston mayoral candidates has become a duel, or let's call it redundantly le duel de deux. Marty Walsh and John Connolly are the same but different. The next seven weeks will necessarily be nastier than the mannered preliminary campaign. Yet neither guy is likely to deceive or outright slander the other.

We have the same

When my kids were in preschool, each experienced that prolonged group-think moment of realizing what is like and different...again and again. With joy, they'd squeal as their classmates did, "We have the same. We have the same!" That might a shirt, a name, a lunch fruit or whatever.

Among Walsh and Connolly's correspondences are:

  • Irish-American ethnicity
  • Native Bostonian
  • Similar ages (46 and 40, Walsh and Connolly)
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Progressive politics, including LGBT rights
  • Stress on schools reform

A prime task for each now is to differentiate himself, we would hope by building himself up and not tearing the other guy down. That may include:

  • Walsh's recent immigrant family
  • Walsh's laborer and union background
  • Walsh's career as state Rep
  • Connolly's Harvard degree
  • Connolly's do-gooder education years
  • Connolly's lawyer career
  • Connolly's family of a secretary of the commonwealth and a judge

We would be well served if they avoided the obvious calumnies. At its worst, the run-up to the final could instead include:

  • Old v. New Boston, with Connolly as the privileged one
  • Traditionally stable v. traditionally checkered past, with Walsh as the redeemed
  • Union pawn v. City Hall hack
  • Connolly wasn't a school teacher long enough

Harvest time

With that dozen wanna-bes, no one dominated. Walsh edged Connolly by 1%, yet no one got even 20% of the vote and many were in the 7% or above.

I seem to be the only one I know who thought that Charlotte Golar Richie's third place was unremarkable. The top ran Walsh (18.47%), Connolly (17.22%) and she (13.77%). She was the sole black woman in the race, with a strong résumé. Yet, I pored over her campaign site and other materials, heard stump speeches and was in the BLS chats. I found her dry, vague and uninspiring. Many of us would welcome an African-American or woman or both mayor here. Yet to me, she didn't show any stuff, any reason to voter for her beyond race and gender.

Yesterday, in our Left Ahead podcast, Ryan disagreed as does my wife. I think my expectations for platform and presentation were too high. By the bye, the followup on the black community not supporting a single candidate of color by the Rev. Eugene Rivers is in today's Herald.

Instead, what's fascinating and even exciting, is that the very discrete dispersion of votes means both finalists have obvious work to get blocs aligned. Connolly is a bit ahead here; he was a big help to Councilor Ayanna Pressley and has worked hard for many years among Latino and black groups and neighborhood areas. Walsh has been largely a white guy, with very strong support in white areas of South Boston and Dorchester.

Looking at maps of donations and votes for each of the 12 candidates shows fascinating blanks for the two winners.  Already, Connolly said that starting election night, he was talking to the other 10 (maybe not Wyatt) to ask for support, including endorsements. Even if he and Walsh sew up their neighborhoods and split the white vote, the vast majority of Boston's population and geography is up for grabs.

This struggle will be the challenge for them and the delight for us.

Issues, oh yeah

We won't suffer through those dreadful forum events — tight timed towers of Babel. Instead, there should be several intense and meaningful debates of just the two. We deserve that.

Schools and unions, particularly the teachers' one, will loom large. Surely though, the media won't wallow to deeply and long there. Yeah, yeah, they both want reform and more charter schools. Walsh can make the argument that as a union macher, he can cut to the chase in negotiations. Connolly can pitch his path to top-quality schools in every single neighborhood.

Instead of only the most obvious, we need to make sure they get real on other key issues. Development, including housing, should top both of their agenda. I'd also hope that one or both will incorporate good concepts from the other candidates. I think of Michael Ross' plan for tens of thousands of housing units, many affordable, along the Fairmount line. That would enable more established and even younger folk to stay in town, while simultaneously preventing "investors" from snatching existing triple deckers and single-family houses, only to price them out of the reach of most existing residents. Commercial development too must not be more non-profit (like college), low or free of tax, often with incentives. These are huge long-term concerns.

It will be easy to lose our way in the stereotypes and clichés in the final. Yet, because both guys are smart, accomplished and, well, nice, I expect them to elevate the discourse. Also, because neither is the incumbent mayor, we shouldn't see the sniping that so often happens in municipals.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Boston Prelim Nods

I finally got off the fence yesterday, picking and endorsing for the preliminary municipal election. I'n not ashamed to say that I have found the vast choices for mayor and council complex and I've been indecisive.

Yesterday in a me session on Left Ahead — click the player below to hear if you just can bear to click away from this post — I talked through the mayoral picks. I settled on one for the preliminary. I had winnowed my district councilor and the at-large ones too.

These may well not be the ones in the November final. The preliminary narrows the field to twice the number who will eventually hold office for that vote. That means mayoral would-be's go from 12 to 2, at-large councilor one from 19 to 8, and in my D5 race, from 8 to 2. For the first round, I went with:

  • Mayor. Rob Consalvo
  • District 5. Mimi E. Turchinetz
  • At-Large. Stephen J. Murphy, Ayanna S. Pressley, Jeffrey Michael Ross, Michelle Wu

The angst came in mayor. Even though I am pretty introverted, I figured correctly that talking through the process publicly would settle my mind. You can hear my evaluations and the process for settling.

About half the candidates were flat out for me for one reason or more. I considered various criteria for choosing as well, ended up with who'd be a mayor who could maintain the city's advances and elevate them. I ignored who is leading in polls and who would be most likely to make it to the final.

Several are likely for that criterion. Mike Ross is clearly the brightest and most visionary, plus he did a superb job in his terms as council president. John Connolly has clear goals and implementation plans for education overhaul, and I am sure he can pick up anything else he'd need to know. Felix Arroyo has a platform that covers every concern of Boston with specifics.

If you have not settled this for yourself, hearing my process may be helpful. It worked for me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Boston Would-Be Mayors Back in School

Of the dozen candidates, those who didn't go to Boston Latin School at least seemed to have had kids who graduated from it (as do I). In yesterday's speed campaigning there, they were political pinballs, banging into one classroom after the other for 10-minute pitches...before that annoying class bell moved them along.

Those with BLS connections mentioned them up front, which may or may not have impressed the 15 or so students and a sprinkling of teachers and other adults.

Truth be told, the ideal of 120 minutes of snappy patter from candidates ended up two-thirds of that. New Boston League of Women Voters President Pam Julian staged a remarkable event in a short time, planning it, coordinating with 12 campaigns, squeezing BLS for access, overseeing the school's Ward Fellows, promoting it, and managing the process live. Still several candidates were late and time didn't care or pause. We had to wrap up by 4:30 and be out by 5. So there.

Nonetheless, we did get to keep our butts in desk chairs while the hopefuls brought their acts to us. As a former BLS and BLA parent, I found it such a welcome reversal of those parent/teacher nights where we queued up and hustled to each room on our kids' skeds. Even in the candidate intros in the oversized grotto that is the BLS auditorium, there was pleasure in knowing you were there for the relatively short stand-when-I-introduce-you session, as each candidate played Jack-in-the-box.

It was not one of those three hour or longer BLS music nights we used to endure. Those were all in the guise of fundraising and had one of my sons not been performing, I would much rather have written a check and stayed home.

I confess that I was still engaging in magical thinking. This election of 12 mayoral, 8 D5 council, 19 at-large council might-be types is confusing. While each race has obvious chaff that falls to the floor, there's enough wheat to make us undecided. So, I thought that even as a high-information voter, I might see the ah-ha angle of each of the dozen. When it became obvious I'd only see angles of eight of them, I still had some hope of clarity.

Among things I learned yesterday were:

  1. Eighth graders at BLS have obvious limits. In my room at least, they were not versed in basic politics and asked very narrow, LITE questions. The most popular was, "Can I have your autograph?" from two girls who were collecting each. One boy was on a green-energy kick and would ask what the candidate's policy would be as mayor.
  2. Candidates varied widely on whether they spoke to the students like adults or condescended to them.
  3. Who I am far outweighed what I'd do in the 10-minute skits.

Per-Candidate Snaps

My room did not get visits from Charles Clemons, Charles Yancey, Felix Arroyo or John Barros. Also John Connolly is not in the snaps. While all candidates were headed to a transportation forum, he left earliest. A not-too-trained minion, who appeared to be recently out of high school, stood in for him, poorly. She admitted she couldn't give his stump speech and barely managed to mumble for three minutes. Seriously, she pitched him by saying he wanted to add compost to the trash and recycling weekly pickups. She also lacked a pol's grace when one of the girls asked for he autograph; she turned a potential moment of humor and goodwill into an awkward exchange of why?

Bill Walczak is a résumé and inference candidate. He has no public-office experience. Instead he cites founding and running the Codman Square Health Center, the charter school inside it, and his very short time at the head of Carney Hospital. His accomplishments from his early 20s on have bolstered his confidence and ego mightily. In effect, the told us, "I'm a real CEO. The others are pale imitations, who have only recruited and managed small staff." He wants to build Boston to be the greatest city in the nation, and says his CEO expertise would let him do that. He stopped short of his usual stump-speech coda that he alone was the magician who would fix any problems we have. Of the dozen, he is decidedly the slickest in presentation and no one can say he lacks confidence.

David James (he always uses his middle name) Wyatt got his own post. He has been the mystery is-he-really-running? guy. I was pleased to get a bit of insight into him, although that just quadruple confirmed he's off my list.

Michael Ross seems to have some teen-girl following. I'm used to overhearing young women giggle about Felix Arroyo's good looks, but I caught some of that about Ross in the auditorium before the show, talk about needing to have a picture taken with him.

Ross had a very smooth personal intro, including his father being a holocaust/concentration-camp survivor. "If anyone has lived the American Dream, he has," he told the room. He added that going from nothing to the middle class, "shouldn't be easy, but it should be impossible."

He then crammed a lot of concepts and promises into his time. He proposed students being able to get one to one and one years of college credits in high-school, credits that they could use in various Boston-based universities. He got the students' attention with the idea of being about to get a degree in 3 or even 2.5 years instead of 4.

Moreover, he piled on voc-tech schools that could train teens for good, non-college-degree jobs. Then in the evening, they could do the same for adults. The college-bound BLS students were looking at their cell phones during this part.

Charlotte Golar Richie seemed to me to be very condescending, with almost Sesame Street diction to the students. That surprised me as she has children who have gone through BLS.

Apropos of nothing shy of her style, she had the only remarkable clothes other than Wyatt's man-on-a-park-bench slacks, shirt and scarf. She wore a nice pants suit and a bright red necklace but the statement was the bright gold heels on her black shoes. I'm a relative schlub, as were all the guys in standard suits.

Her 10 minutes though were far too LITE and general. She did claim as her one specific that she'd create a cabinet-level Office of Youth Affairs. She didn't say what that would really mean, but hey, she was specific here.

Otherwise, she claimed that she'd fix the schools by having excellent leaders in each. She even said she'd know "every one of the 127 principals." She'd find out what each intended to do to bring in partners from colleges, companies and parents. She didn't say how she'd find time and authority to do this, whether she'd find ways to dump duds, and how she'd manage to find and recruit 127 winners if necessary.

Rob Consalvo of course pitched his innovations and investment plans. His fellow City Councilors both admire and tease him for his constant discovery of and proposals for new concepts that have worked elsewhere.

He went strong with strong pledges of trans-neighborhood egalitarianism. Every neighborhood — and not just the ones best connected, heaviest voting or loudest — would share in investment in schools, safety and economic growth.

He spoke to his intent to create a cabinet-level Office of Innovation, Ideas, and Technology. For education, his major plank in the room was letting any school whose administration and parents wanted it to be a K-through-8 one to do so. Nearly everyone at BLS had been through the absurdity of grades 1 through 5 in one place and 6 in another before settling in. He noted that his kids are thriving in the Roosevelt's K-through-8 system.

As always, he was excited, personable and brimming with ideas.

Dan Conley remains, as Suffolk DA, the law-and-order guy. It's what he knows and it showed, largely in good ways. He concentrated though on education, including voc-tech and job-training programs. He was also candid in telling the students they should have longer school days.

Fundamental to school improvements, he did not stress that he was one of those strong charter-school advocates who wants to lift the cap on them. Instead he spoke of the importance of decentralizing the system. He wants to upend the decision making for schools, shifting the resources and methodology to the school level.

John Walsh's everyman persona played well. Perhaps because he started by describing himself as a lifelong Dorchester resident with a very middle-class experience and mentality. He's a 16-year state Rep. but wears that lightly.

For education, he started infrastructure, unlike the other candidates when they got to schools. He noted that too many of the city's school buildings went up between 1870 and 1927. He said as mayor, he'd upgrade these to enable them to serve the students and teachers adequately.

Another unusual proposal was creating trade apprenticeship programs. These would guarantee entry into jobs in those trades upon completion. He said he was a huge believer in helping people move into the middle class, which simultaneously would make for safer streets.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wowzers, a Republican Sort of Runs for Boston Mayor

Not Mr. Sociability, rather Boston mayoral candidate David James Wyatt showed at Boston Latin School today.

The two-hour event, sponsored by Boston League of Women Voters and enabled by the work of the BLS Ward Fellows, was to be a speed-dating afternoon. All 12 candidates showed and they were to career from one classroom to another, where they'd pitch and respond to students and adults. It was to be 10 minutes per classroom, so all dozen could make the rounds in those two hours. Of course, the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley...and mildly astray they did go.

Numerous candidates, notably the running man, Mike Ross, were late. After the assemblage onstage for quick intros, and breaking into classroom lumps, we got to hear from half the gang.

Disclaimers: That was OK by me. I know several of them well. Many have been guests on Left Ahead this year and previously. Rob Consalvo has been my district Councilor for over for years and has performed constituent services for me. A post follows tomorrow or Thursday on the candidates I did hear.

Today though, I got a better sense of the arcane Wyatt.

His standard rap when pressed, as at the NECN/Herald TV thingummy is:

  • I am a Republican
  • I am 100% pro-life
  • If I am not elected Mayor, no one will represent people like me

That is certainly not the most complete, sophisticated, reasoned or compelling platform in the race. Also, he has virtually no campaign funds, his website is a one-page ho-hum, where the only option, the Donate button, doesn't even work. He makes next to no campaign appearances and apparently doesn't even bother to fill out the various questionnaires sent to all the dozen.

We over-informed wonks have wondered how serious he could be. He's run a few quixotic races before — a 2001 write-in mayoral and a 2007 at-large Councilor try when he got enough sigs for the ballot. He had negligible showings. That hasn't stopped him from repeating, quasi accurately that he is the only one of the dozen who has run for mayor before. Well, ta da.

I confess that I had not contacted him for a show on Left Ahead. He seemed to have a one-minutes, thirty-seven second stump speech.

He did a bit better this afternoon.

He spoke to about ten eighth and ninth graders and four adults. He appeared to feel we had cooties. It mirrored his arrival on the stage at the beginning of the event. A dozen Harvard-style armchairs spanned from the American flag pole to the lectern. Wyatt arrived after most candidates and went to far stage left, leaving three seats open from where another eight of them had sat and were chatting and laughing.

He was our last candidate of the afternoon in the classroom, 217, if I recall correctly. Each of the others had acted the pol, entering, quickly turning to face the desks, looking at each of us to connect, and standing in the center to speak intimately with us.

Wyatt dd not. He is large and lumbers. He looked unhappy to be there and scanned the room like he was looking for hidden exits if necessary. He continued to the rear, where a teacher might sit and found the chair most removed from the audience. He did not stand, did not have personal eye contact, and kept his distance.

As he spoke, he fairy chanted. "I am a conservative. I'm going to try to spend as little of the taxpayers' money as possible." Of course, he did not seem to revel in the humor of speaking to nominal at best taxpayers and an age group that was not attune to such clichés.

He went on that if he became mayor, his conservatism would mean that jobs in Boston would only go to the most qualified. Nepotism was flat out.

He fairly gleamed when he said that as a Republican he was "stingy with money." He did explain that the underlying philosophy was to help taxpayers keep as much of their money as possible, to use for their own purposes.

Fortunately for him, the students did not seem all that politically savvy. Wyatt did however admit that the other candidates had much fuller platforms and résumés that lent themselves to clear answers to big questions. "I can only speculate," he said, "how I could handle those issues."

His forte or at least passion was education. He seems to have had a short BPS teaching career although he said his mother taught for over 40 years.

In this context, he was the most eloquent I've heard him. His posture is that if you get a good education, leading to a good career, you have "no need for anyone to be doing anything that is illegal or takes care of public safety."

He added that if we get our schools perking right, companies from outside the city and state will move here, bring jobs with them.

He then returned unbidden to speak of his pro-life position. He was selectively open in speaking of his apparently wrenching decisions at the end of his mother's life. In his version, there were other siblings, but he alone had to decide whether to prolong her life regardless, balanced against her comfort.

Obviously, there's much more to that story. He did not tell us whether he had to make a pull-the-plug type of decision or whether in her case he became maybe 72% pro-life. Regardless, this is personal with him and why he forever brings it up.

In a corollary, he said that he was against capital punishment. One would think that being pro-life would build that right in. Instead, he said that as the poor cannot afford the best legal representation that the rich can, capital punishment is unfair and it is usually the poor who are executed.

I couldn't tell whether the students were tired at this point, after a day at school and two hours of snappy patter. Regardless, they had no questions. There were still several minutes before the end bell, so I asked how his pro-life position would affect and inform his role as mayor.

He didn't go all winger dumb. He said that he did not think there were regulatory or legislative ways for him to affect the city here. Instead, he referred to the bully pulpit. He figures that his speech as mayor would be more powerful and influential than that of other folk.

He concluded that, "Life begins as conception and it should not be interrupted for any light cause."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Confusion in Boston Campaign 2013

Come election day, Sept. 24, I may not talk politics from 6 AM until 8 PM. As a warden at a Boston poll, I know the rules, including no political talk in the building from setup time.

Meanwhile though, I am just one of many, many that voters try to squeeze mind-settling sureness from. Last night, for example, as many adults as there are mayoral candidates were at a church dinner. Sure, Syria was a topic, but the mayor's race was always in the air. Because of my political blog and podcast, people asked. As well they should have.

I wish I had an easy, confident answer. Pericles knows, I'm as big a believer in democracy as I am in public education. I have researched the devil out of this, as in reading all the news, attending stump speeches and kickoffs, going to or watching fora, interviewing numerous candidates at Left Ahead, analyzing the candidates' campaign sights, grilling those who show up on the stoop, and reading all the lit in the mail or attached to the banister by rubber band.

I am a high-information voter, for mayoral, at-large Council, and district Council races. I still feel like the old man in Moonstruck — I'm confused.

12 for Mayor, 19 for At-Large, 8 for D5

We have lived in Boston for 34 years, yet only had three mayors. The last serious election, and the last one with this kind of scrum, was 30 years ago. Larry DiCara, who ran in that race, just talked about it with Left Ahead this week.

The clear consensus of people I have spoken with who do not live in Boston is how wonderful it is to have 1) such a wide choice and 2) so many strong candidates. Also certainly in view of the impotent GOP here in MA, where their real base of fiscally and socially conservative pols are hidden in the Democratic party where they can get elected and reelected, having a choice of people you could live with in this or that office is a little d democratic boon.

Yet again, like many voters, even we high-information ones, I am confused. It reminds me of the elders who sometimes hail me in a Stop & Shop or Roche Bros. store. It's usually in the cereal aisle, 100 or more feet of boxed choices from ankle height to above our heads. Typically, the submissive plaint is, "Can you help me find the Kellogg's Corn Flakes? All I want is corn flakes." Choice can overwhelm.

Hard to Pare

Strangely enough, only three mayoral candidates are easy to dismiss out of hand.

  • David Wyatt is a bumbling failed school teacher (unsuccessfully sought reinstatement). He really isn't campaigning, rarely show to events, and when pressed at the only televised forum, was forced to speak only to say he was a Republican and pro-life, and that people like him needed representation.
  • "Brother" Charles Clemons is known in the African-American communities for his TOUCH radio. He has been running a vanity campaign, apparently for the publicity and maybe to say later that he tried, he ran. 
  • Charles Yancey is by some measures the dean of the City Council, at least he has been there for 30 years as a district Councilor. You'd hardly know he was in the hunt for Mayor, his district seat is secure. He'll be skunked in the prelim for Mayor and sail to reelection in D4 over three relatively unknown and unproven opponents.

That still leaves nine players. In the few polls, no one has a runaway lead and most are within the margin of poll error.

My Groupings

Among the remaining high-competence/strong-résumé candidates, they break into several, sometimes overlapping groupings.

  • Existing, respected CouncilorsRob Consalvo, Michael Ross, John Connolly, and Felix Arroyo. None of these is running also for his Council seat reelection. On one hand, that's a shame; they're all very good at the job, and their replacements will take time to get with the program, if they are ever as good. On the other hand, having two new district and two new at-large Councilors out of 13 could be a great infusion of enthusiasm and ideas.
  • Really smart visionaries. Ross and Bill Walczak are unquestionably the brightest in the race. Each promises a dramatically different Boston. Ross aims for a much more responsive and open, and technologically based government. Walczak claims to be the magician, a CEO who sees the big problems and fixes them. They have the huge, maybe insurmountable problem of articulating a broad vision instead of staying at plain-folk level.
  • Nominal outsiders. Charlotte Golar Richie, Walczak, and John Barros can lay claim to being non-pols. That's misleading though. She has been a long-time mid-level functionary in both Mayor Menino and Gov. Patrick's administrations. Walczak, as head of a huge health center and then a hospital, and Barros, as long-time school-board member, are politicians in reality.
  • Focused candidates. Connolly and Dan Conley have specialties. While both have platform planks beyond their big issue, Connolly is identified with education and Conley with public safety. They risk being marginalized as not being generalists as the current beloved Mayor is.
  • Minority candidates. There could be many variations on first here. Yancey, Golar Richie, Barros, and Clemons (and Wyatt) could be the first black Mayor. Golar Richie could be the first woman, Arroyo could be the first Latino. You might also consider that Ross could be the first Jewish Mayor here.
  • Union guys. Marty Walsh hit several sweet spots. He's strongly identified as a union official, he's Irish-American, and he's a Dotrat (native of the Dorchester neighborhood). Arroyo was a long-time organizer for the service workers, but unions have almost entirely rallied to Walsh (the powerful teachers' union has not endorsed). 

Other than many unions backing Walsh, the "natural" constituencies have not done the birds-of-a-feather thing. Black Bostonians have not flocked to a single African-American candidate. While various Councilors have pretty good support on their home turf, other than Consalvo owning Hyde Park, neighborhoods are muddled. Walczak, Barros, Walsh, Golar Richie, Clemons and Yancey, for example are Dorchester residents and each known for active work there. Dot is huge in population and geography. A more pitched and perhaps more decisive split is among Connolly and Conley from West Roxbury. That heavy-voting neighborhood has to choose between two accomplished white, Irish lawyer guys.

For the wild card, Arroyo is a recent Jamaica Plain resident but spent almost all his life in Hyde Park after early years in the South End. He is also remarkable for a few reasons beyond being the Latino in the race. He is very personable and has high favorables. He's good looking, as is his wife; that never hurts. The thousands of blue-collar service workers adore him as well. Yet, he hasn't pulled in the money and endorsements many of us figured would come easily to him.


In a campaign as complex as this preliminary, voters don't know where the corn flakes are, that is, how to find the candidate and even what basis to perform triage.

Disclaimers: Consalvo has been my Councilor for nearly five years, has performed constituent services for me, and I know him pretty well. In fact, I know many of the candidates, via this blog, as well as guests on Left Ahead (look down the archives to hear them in their own words). Connolly and I have talked education on and off for years. Ross has likewise discussed various aspects of government, and of our shared interest in cycling. Likewise, Arroyo and I overlap in JP and are very comfortable chatting face to face. Perhaps this choice is so difficult for me because I know, respect and like so many of the candidates.

Many voters have told me they are wondering who has the greatest chance of winning the preliminary and consider that a major criterion. Others go civically abstract, as in imaging each as Mayor; who'd be the best long-term?

At the voting stand, those criteria may be no more solid than picking Ross or Arroyo because they are pretty or any of the existing Councilors because they performed good constituent services or anyone who remembered your name after meeting you once.

Numerous of the candidates have told me directly that shoe leather wins this preliminary. That is, as Tom Menino did 20 years ago, meeting and greeting the most voters, and being on the porch as well as in the moment with each, will make the difference. Both local major dailies have run articles suggesting as much this time. Maybe or that would be media laziness for hedging bets.

If you use the national-election standards, it would be fund raising and the resulting ability to buy staff and pay for ads. Endorsements don't seem to do it at any political level. Nationwide though, money talks, and loudly, in campaigns. Yet, nearly everyone here seems to have enough (again, except for Wyatt who may have under $100 and no drive to get a single vote). I know I have gotten visits and calls from the candidates, as well as mailers and literature left while we're away.

The advertising in this campaign doesn't seem all that pervasive or impressive. I look at and listen to all I can find. Ross' are OK and fun, but only Consalvo has simultaneously sincere and fun ones. Plus, of the 12 only Consalvo has a memorable slogan (All in for Boston); you'd think they would have spent two hours each coming up with a killer catchphrase.

Regardless, I'll endorse Monday or Tuesday for the preliminary. I totally understand why a third of the voters polled say they can't make up their minds.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mare's Nest or Mayor Test

My fantasy last evening was that one or two of the dozen Boston mayoral would figuratively push the others off the forum stage. The Herald, NECN and Suffolk U. crammed them all on stools like so many sparrows waiting at the feeder.

The whole thing is on-demand at Comcast and will appear in pieces at NECN. Look for Boston Mayoral Forum: Part 1 and Part 2.

I didn't get what I wanted and am much less wowed by the alleged fireworks than the Herald, NECN and Globe reported they were. I dislike the forum format, with too many pols,  too many simplistic questions, too short a period to answer and virtually no give-and-take debate among candidates or with the moderators.

Yesterday it was what we have come to expect. NECN's Latoyia Edwards somehow confused this event with college football, setting the raucous tone very high in the into. Moderators NECN's Alison King and Herald's Joe Battenfeld were respectively OK and pinheaded throughout the 90 minutes. The latter is an unrepentant winger who does not think on his feet. He repeatedly went for the gotcha-questions and failed. That did not keep him from returning even when the candidates did not want to play his games. (To Dan Conley for example, how dare you send your kids to parochial schools?)

While the squabbling and talking over each other continued, I had hoped for a decisive winner or two. I didn't get it. The theory floating about is that this forum would let candidates below the slightly higher polling John Connolly and Marty Walsh each promote one or maybe two clear distinctions for themselves. Then in the next two weeks before the preliminary, they could pound their chests and stress those planks.

Yeah, yeah, there were some differences, like Connolly wants an East Boston vote on a casino, Conley a citywide one, and Bill Walczak somehow holds that he'd stop any casino in town, regardless laws or public opinion. Those and others don't make the election. We knew going in what various candidates thought and felt about crime, schools and so forth.

The verbal and physical tics were more fun than trying to listen as 11 candidates (David Wyatt was stony silent) and two moderators talked over each other. It was often a circle shout.

Instead of picking an easy-to-explain/easy-to-relate-to/easy-to-remember plank, most of the candidates threw résumé morsels whenever they could. Instead of a concise policy answer, they'd refer to my so-and-so plan (economic development, crime, schools...). Conley had even snuck in a prop, one of his programs in a bound printout, which he waved about several times. Others referred to something they had done as a City Councilor or CEO or City Hall hired gun. Each had multiple chances to wow with a new angle or boffo proposal. None took them.

A few also did distracting motions, none so often as my district Councilor Rob Consalvo. He kept pulling his suit jacket closed. Was he trying not to look too round, hiding a dinner spill on his shirt, or what? He's much better at public speaking than I. Still he should lose this tic.

Also, for every one of them, except Walczak, they need to practice a relaxed smile. Watch part 1 of the forum to wince through the candidate introductions. Clearly none had been a beauty queen or equivalent. Their forced, fixed grins were painful to behold. Meanwhile wildly smiling Edwards was a great example as she introduced them.

In the end though, I didn't get what I wanted, that clear winner. Maybe I watched too many Westerns as a kid — white hat v. black hat with the good guy on top at the end. This is not yet at the end, but we voters have hard decisions.

Ryan and I talk about the race this afternoon on Left Ahead. My next post here will be on my process in narrowing preliminary choice.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Baker Only Player on MA GOP Bench

Lord love a duck, was it only three years ago that Mass Republicans' great wide hope, Charlie Baker, went down grimacing to Gov. Deval Patrick? He's back and big and bland as ever.

You can see his ho-hum announcement on the front of his new campaign site. At there moment, there's no other content accessible, short of signing up for his mailing list or giving him money.

The key concept here is that his only real hope of winning the open office will be voter delusion. The MA electorate loves its fantasy that putting Republicans into that office somehow is the smart thing to do, avoiding one-party rule and such.  Those who vote that way often say something like, "It's only common sense." Yet, that invariably means, "I got nothing. I'll make wild assertions and I don't want to be challenged or prove anything."

In MA reality, over half the electorate is unenrolled. The other 48% divvy up 36%-plus for Dems and 11%-plus for Republicans. Within both the unenrolled and Dems are substantial numbers of socially and fiscally conservative voters. I have long contended that this shadow Republican party is the base that the opposition needs to rally, where they need to pluck and groom their candidates from. That would apparently take more smarts, guts and energy than the GOP has here.

Amusingly, blogs around here, including the Red and the Blue Mass Groups, already carry Baker barkers claiming he will skunk Steve Grossman or whoever else wins the Dem primary. Some shills advance the very false idea that in the 2010 election, Baker would have beaten Patrick if Dem-turned-unenrolled Tim Cahill would not have run. That assumes Cahill's 8% of the vote would have gone entirely to Baker — a risible fantasy, when in fact Cahill bled Patrick votes from both Dem and unenrolled voters.

As outgoing MA Dem party chair John Walsh clears his desk, he also clears his throat and ridicules Baker's bluster. Moreover, sites like and ProgressiveMass' list of 13 things Baker would like voters to forget they know about him are not being subtle about the candidates failures, shames and duplicity. If those seem like showing your hand and telling the opposition what's coming, it's no surprise to either side. Voters will have to delude themselves to smear the oval for Jolly Cholly.