SMART-ALECKY : JAMIE JONES @ BIJOU BOSTON 03.07.14

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The first Boston DJ performance by Wales’s Jamie Jones was a smashing success for Bijou, the techno emporium at which he made the scene. The club was full, full, full, and it stayed all full right to the last note of Jones’ last track of a two hour set.

For this observer, however, Jones’s set fell short. This was a surprise. Beatport’s list of his top ten downloads feature some of the most ticklish joke-juke funk anyone has ever heard from a dance music track maker. “Road To the Studio,” “Jealousy,” “Percolator,’ and “Hungry For the Power” all squat, shrug, and grin like the vaudeville cameos they are. Not since the joke juke rap work of 1980s acts like Newcleus, Zapp, and (aptly named) Cameo has funny funk had its grinning in your face view of life this eloquently expressed. Unhappily, at Bijou, Jones’s lithe portraits of shrug, squat, and grin gave way to hard loudness — stomp, growl, grumble and gargle — shapes all standard-issue for DJs dropping sets in Boston.

It would have been all right for Jones to play that kind of standard sound had he shown himself its master. And Jones, though still very young in a DJ world dominated by middle-aged masters, has a world-wide reputation; in 2011 he topped Resident Advisor’s reader poll of DJs. One might expect that ANY list’s Number one DJ would deliver a sound profoundly original, daringly crafted, full of message and feeling; yet Prok & Fitch, purveying a very similar sound at a Providence night club some months ago, topped every aspect of Jones’s Bijou set : daring, clarity, originality, progression.

Perhaps that’s because Prok & Fitch played what they do; whereas at Bijou, Jones clearly was playing what he figured the Boston crowd wanted to hear instead. Jones’s tracks tickle and seduce. they’re light to the touch, a peck on the cheek, a soap bubble joke. They feel as delicate as Prince in that song where he pretends to be your girlfriend. But there was nothing girl-friendly about Jones’s massive yuck-work at Bijou.

He played several of his top ten list, including its number one, “Moan and Groan,” a caricature of the now out of favor “electro” style. Here was a balloon of sound blown up almost to the bursting point. As a spoof on bad DJs, it had legs. But it was a hard act for even its maker to follow.

Jones dropped several daredevil mixes — from acappella to a big stomp, big stomp to sharp tones, wobbly voice fade ins and glitch-tone fade outs, strips of tonality — that proved his chops and had me wondering why, given his ability to leap across sonar abysses, there wasn’t more of it. What there was a lot of was gimmicky sound-shaping, much of it glaringly tacky, as if Jones were caricaturing Donald Glaude, the DJ world’s emperor of tacky.

Caricatures of tacky still sound tacky, and irony as an attitude leaves many — certainly left me — at odds with the beat and the sound. House music wants to get inside your soul; techno wants to surround you. Both genres transport the dancer — “take you on a journey,” Danny Tenaglia puts it. Jones’s smart-alecky goose waddles, however, left me at the station. As an alt-rock kind of dance music, it had a point, I guess, and Jones’s young fans seemed to get that. I still prefer Prok & Fitch.

Local house DJ Tamer Malki’s opening set featured a lush low moan taken at a sleezy 120 bpm, a set as earnest and soulful as Jones’s was voraciously comedic.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

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HOW CASINO POLITICS DETERMINED THE 2ND SUFFOLK…AND MORE

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  • ^ got lucky, dodged a missile : Dan Ryan
  • The 2nd Suffolk state Representative race won on Tuesday by Charlestown was the big story of the night — I said so, and I’m sticking to it. But in the politics of casino development there’s an even larger story surrounding that one.
  • As it happened, the 2nd Suffolk race was won by exactly the man who looked a winner of it from day one : Dan Ryan. Yet as strong as his campaign flexed, he dodged a missile when, on the night of Febraury 25th, Revere voted 64 to 36 in favor of the Mohegan Sun / Suffolk Downs project. Consider this :
  • 1.Ryan faced a Charlstown rival, Chris Remmes, who made opposurion to all casinos a pivot of his campaign. Remmes raised plenty of campaign ,oney early and had a power base in the Ward 2 Democratic committee, which he chairs.

    2.Charlestown voters overwhelmingly do not want the Steve Wynn casino project planned for the Everett waterfront. At a hugely attended meeting at charlestown High School they made their opposition very plain.

    3.Dan Ryan favors the Revere casino, as did his Chelsea popponent, Roy avellaneda. Ryan’s large following among Building trades and transport workiers also favor a casino — b ut preferably the Revere choice — as does a key Ryan supporter, Mayor Walsh.

    4.had the Revere casino vote been won by the “no casino” crowd, Ryan would now have been squeezed both ways. Oppose the only remaining casino option — Everett — and his building trades supporters might well have gone with Roy Avellaneda. Support the Everett casino, and Ryan risked losing votes to Chris Remmes, even the election itself.

    Opposition to the Everett casino was indeed THAT strong in most Charlestown homes. Walsh, too, who lost Charlestown badly in last year’s Mayor race, would have found himself again at odds with a community that doesn’t change allegiances easily.

    That was the prospect facing Ryan (and Walsh) as, with fingers crossed, they awaited news of how Revere had voted on the Tuesday night before the 2nd Suffolk special election day. as we all know now, it didn’t happen. Revere voted Yes, Chris Remmes’s campaign lost its reason for beimg, and Ryan (and Walsh) could joyously tout the Revere casino plan, taking away Avellaneda’s hoped-for issue, and pleasing all supporters and offending none on his way to the big victory that he got on March 4th.

    But it might easily have come crashing down.

    Nor is the casino game over in the 2nd Suffolk District.

    In September, when Ryan runs for election to a full term, the Gaming Commission will likley have issued its decision. What if it selects the Steve Wynn, Everett proposal, as seems likely given the plan’s waterfront location and superior brand name ? What position will Ryan take, now as Charlestown’s elected voice ? And then there’s the man most responsible for Ryan’s election : Congressman Mike Capuano. Will he step into the Steve Wynn casino battle and help Ryan deflect possible opposition from C town ? I’m guessing that the two men have talked much about this prospect and what to do if it comes to pass. It wouldn’t surprise me if they wee already moving the Gaming Commission to pick the Revere option. If the Commission does take that route, you can bet six Navy Yard Bistro dinners that Ryan and Capuano were forcefully on it.

    Marty Walsh, too. With Ryan’s election, Walsh got lucky, more or less. A Revere decision by the Gaming Commission would double Walsh’s luck.

    — Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BLANK BUILDINGS FOR JACKSON SQUARE — BUT THEY’RE NEW !

Just now we published this article on our Roxbury Here local affiliate.

Roxbury Here

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Last night I attended a “community input” meeting sponsored by Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) to discuss, with such members of “the community’ as cared to, plans for a residential building on the now vacant 75 Amory Street parcel. The District’s City Councillor, Tito Jackosn was there, along with about 40 residents with questions tlo ask.

For those who might not be familiar, the parcel in question abuts the Orange Line on its eastward side and also the south side of Centre Street across from the Jackson Square bus station/T stop.

If you knew Jackson Square a generation ago but haven’t seen it since, you won’t recognize the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Centre street. Gone, almost all, are the weather-worn brick manufacturing floors, the smoke-blackened warehouses — abandoned hulks of an earlier age of heavy lifting. Gone, too, the Edward Hopper-ish storefronts, the taverns and cigarette stores, the…

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NO SURPRISES IN THREE SUFFOLK COUNTY SPECIAL ELECTIONS

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^ a happy moment for the Ryan Family — and for 40 years of Charlestown people

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Finally the three Special State Representative Elections have come and gone, the results known. For all the noise and drama, for all the cold and snow, the darkness and slog, the results in all three elections closely paralleled my personal predictions — both to result and total vote.

I wish there had been a surprise or two. But there wasn’t even one. Which does NOT mean there wasn’t big news. There was. Plenty of it, too.

( 1 ) BIG STORY OF THE NIGHT : the 2nd Suffolk District, which finally, after almost 40 years, elected a Charlestown guy, the Town’s first elected voice since Jimmy Collins left office in the late 1970s. Dan Ryan, an aide to Congressman Mike Capuano, did the trick:

Charlestown vote : Dan Ryan 2,071, Chris Remmes 359, Roy Avellaneda 122
Chelsea vote : Dan Ryan 229, Chris Remmes 79,l Roy Avellaneda 1,038
Totals : Dan Ryan 2,290 Chris Remmes 438, Roy Avellaneda 1,260

Total vote cast : 3,901. I predicted 4,000

Charlestown wanted this seat badly. BADLY. It outvoted Chelsea two to one. The usual vote is six to five Charlestown. But not this time.

Not many of Jack Kelly’s young Charlestown generation — who buoyed Kelly’s strong City Council candidacy in last year’s Boston elections — seemed to show. It was an older vote. In three hours at Charlestown polls — I visited each one — I saw only one millenial show up to cast a ballot. Nor were many young people visible at Ryan’s victory party. he won the race two to one; a message has been sent, and it’s a good one; but Ryan has serious work to do outreaching to the millenials whose lives have been ravaged by the drug war that Mayor Walsh last year proclaimed, at a Charlestown “Mondays with Marty’ meeting, was afoot on the streets of what is now Dan Ryan’s base.

A re-election campaign awaits Ryan.

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^ happy to build friendships in Charlestown : Mayor Walsh at Dan Ryan’s victory

( 2 ) THE RACE TO SUCCEED MARTY WALSH : speaking of Mayor Walsh, his place in the legislature has now been taken — convincingly — by a man very different. Dan Hunt, whose Dad and brother have trier to win the 13th Suffolk State Representative seat, conquered it big time :

Dorchester vote:

Dan Hunt 2,249 John O’Toole 1,052 Liam Curran 880 PJ McCann 230 Gene Gorman 137

Quincy vote (one precinct !)

Dan Hunt 88 John O’Toole 30 Liam Curran 10 PJ McCann 8 Gene Gorman 1

Total vote : Hunt 2,337 O’toole 1,082 Curran 890 McCann 238 Gorman 138

Total ballots cast : 4,791. (I predicted 5,000)

Dan Hunt won 46.5 % of all ballots, in a five man field. That’s about as convincing as it gets. His victory was fully expected. I said as much in two articles. He has the legislative chops, he started early, he raised much more money than his rivals, he had lots of endorsements and most of the district’s “opinion leaders.” Hunt is no throwback. He gets it. He will likely be an influential legislator before his first term is out. Yes, he has to run for re-election almost immediately, for a full term. I doubt that will be a problem.

( 3 ) The easiest to predict of the three races was the one in Revere, mostly; the 16th Suffolk state Representative seat vacated by Kathi Reinstein. Roselee Vincent won the Democratic nomination. Unlike the other two Suffolk districts, however, she isn’t saeted yet. She faces Republican Todd Taylor on April 1st.

Revere vote : Roselee Vincent 990 Linda Rosa 550 Josh Monahan 81
Chelsea vote : Roselee Vincent 75 Linda Rosa 42 Josh Monahan 277
Saugus vote : (unavailable at the Town of Saugus website as of 12.30 PM 03.05.14; will update when I can)
Total vote not including Saugus : Vincent 1,065 Rosa 592 Monahan 358
Total ballots cast not including Saugus : 1,746. I predicted 2,000 total.

Roselee Vincent has been chief aide to both Kathi Reinstein and her father Bill Reinstein. She represents continuity in a city where stability is almost an article of faith. She raised more money than all her rivals combined, had practically the entire Revere political community backing her, and seems assured of winning both on April lst and in November. But revere is by far the most Republican voting community in Suffolk County, and Saugus, in Essex County, votes even more so. Vincent’s victory over a strong, Revere Republican opponent — were one to arise — would not be at all assured. Linda Rosa is the most Tea Party-ish Democrat I’ve encountered in all of Suffolk County. Were she to run as a Republican, Vincent would face a real battle.

On now to April 1st, when the 5th Suffolk state Representative seat holds ITS special electioon, to succeed the ousted Carlos Henriquez. And when Revere votes too.

Also on tap for April 1st : the voters of the 5th Middlesex State Senate District, where Democratic nominee Jason Lewis, of Winchester, now faces Melrose alderman Monica Medeiros in a seat held by Republican Rich Tisei for 22 years.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV-14 : JULIETTE KAYYEM CLAIMS 2ND PLACE

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The photo above is not a meme. It’s real. Governor hopeful Juliette Kayyem claims to have won the second largest number of committed delegates as selected by the party’s caucuses, which have now finished.

This would be huge news if it’s a true count. The truth of it is diminished somewhat, however, by the number of uncommitted delegates chosen. In Kayyem’s photo, “uncommitted” is not listed. Many uncommitteds were chosen in the immediate Boston area, and many of these are said to be actually Martha Coakley votes. Maybe what’s being said isn’t so, but the number of uncommitted delegates is not small. A spokesman for the Kayyem campiagn says the uncommitteds total about 50% of all delegates elected.

But to say it again : Kayyem having more committed delegates than Martha Coakley is big news. Coakley leads all public polls of the Democratic nomination; she’s a sitting Attorney General with an heroic record using that office to fight predatory mortgage lenders, whereas Kayyem holds no office at all.

Coakley’s troubles with the activists in her party are well attested. Some of it began with her dispiriting campaign and loss of a US Senate seat to Scott Brown. Coakley continues to be “unexciting” (as one Newton caucus goer called her), on stage in Forums, an under-exposed photograph, and almost as wan in the fund-raising game. And there are many who have not forgotten Coakley’s handling of the Amirault family, Fells Acres day care scandal, or her over-charging prosecution of former State Treasurer Tim Cahill.

Hardly any activist wants to see Coakley as Governor.

Will activists’ dislike of Coakley translate to her losing the Democratic Primary ? That question will be answered if Kayyem wins the 15 percent of delegates needed for the ballot. Everybody agrees that Steve Grossamn has by far the largest number of committed dekegates and that, barring an ambhush, he will win the Democratic convention’s nomination. In the Primary, however, he now polls far, far behind Coakley. Winning the convention’s Ok will bump his poll numbers a lot. Having Kayyem on the ballot will, Grossman must think, cut Coakley’s primary vote still more.

Will Coakley fail to get to 15 oercent of the convention vote ? The answer has to be : she’ll make the cut easily. Those uncommitted votes may not all be hers, but many of them are. Not being Grossman votres, whose can they be but Coakley’s ?

By no means has Kayyem yet made the 15 pecent cut. second place in committed delegates she may have — more even than coakley; but the convention includes many delegates not elected at the caucuses. Might many of these by-pass both Attorney General Coakley and Treasurer Grossman, to plunk for Kayyem (or Berwick) ? It isn’t enough for Kayyem to win 15 peecent or more of the caucused delagres; she has to win 900 votes — 15 percent of the entire body of 6,000 delegates. When I called for a number, Kayyem’s campaign wouldn’t put a figure on her second pla ce claim. It probably doesn’t total 900.

Her task is still a hard one.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

DEMOCRATIC CAUCUSES — AND GOP TOO : IDEALISTS AND REALISTS

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^ Newton ward 2 caucus : idealists For Don Berwick, realists for Steve Grossman

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It’s hard to dig any message out of the five-candidate-for-Governor, Democratic caucuses that were held during the past month. Only after a full month of sitting in at about eight of those caucuses has a meaning become even hypothetically true, and it’s a cliched one : the Massachusetts Democratic party is split between idealists and realists. Or if you prefer, radicals and centrists.

This sort of division has ruled Massachusetts Democratic actives at least since John Silber, then Scott Harshbarger, then Shannon O’Brien, became the party’s nominees for Governor. Deval Patrick’s winning the 2006 Democratic nomination confirmed it. Yet in each of those cases, going back to 1990, the Democratic winner differed — in some cases sharply — about policy initiatives already contentious within the legislative calendar. This time the gulf between Democratic realists and idealists has widened. It was much in evidence at the City of Newton caucuses yesterday, where delegate candidates pledged to the quintessentially realistic Steve Grossman barely edged out delegate hopefuls pledged to this year’s idealist of idealists, Don Berwick.

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^ realistically idealistic : Steve Grossman at the Boston ward 3 caucus

Both men live in Newton, and between them they claimed the entire prize of almost 100 delegates. There wasn’t much sentiment for Juliette Kayyem at the Ward caucus that I sat in on (Ward 2) and none at all for Martha Coakley or Joe Avellone. Home town strength mattered, but it wasn’t the major fact. Of this campaign, Steve Grossman epitomizes realism, Berwick the radical. Kayyem has been a candidate of glamor and nuance : but nuance doesn’t seem to cut it. She’s made scant mark on any of the caucuses I have attended, yesterday’s included. at every caucus she has her team, wearing “I am for Kayyem’ T shirts” (whose grey base contrasts meaningfully with the bold white backing dark blue of Team Berwick); but Kayyem’s team gatherings seem, at leat at the caucuses I’ve sat through, unable to translate enthusiasm into numbers. As for Joe Avellone, he doesn’t even bring a team, much less win a delegate (tough news reports have him winning quite a few out by Worcester County).

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^ realistic outsider : Joe Avellone at Boston ward 14 caucus

Avellone is particularly weakened by being a candidate of realism who is also an outsider. This doesn’t work. A candidate cannot be persuasively realistic unless he or she is very much an insider. realistic goals presume the clout to get them done. Outsiders lack that. an outsider must be an idealist; must represent those who want the insider game shaken up. This, Don Berwick — or his helmsman –understands. He advocates all the wish-list that burns tyger-brightly (as William Blake once spelt it) in the night forests of Democratic progressives’ dreams : single payer health care, graduated income tax, green energy funding, sentencing reform, higher taxes to pay for transportation and infrastructure. He insists on them all; and the Democrats of idealist bent have responded. as recently as a month ago I thought that Juliette Kayyem, not Berwick, would be the third Democratic Governor hopeful to win the necessary fifteen percent of delegates or see her campaign end. Today I think it’ll be Berwick.

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^ nuance and glamour may not work : Juliette Kayyem addresses Newton Governor Fum

Kayyem might have easily taken the route that Berwick took. She would have trounced him had she done so. Kayyem has charisma galore and is stunningly beautiful : if you meet her and don’;t rmemeber it vividly, physically, you’re a zombie. But Kayyem seems to have played her resume both ways : Obama administration,. Homeland security official, and thus an insider who should be realistic; but also outsider — having never run for anything elective — who gets the progressive agenda. Gets it, but doesn’t necessarily advocate it; certainly not in the all-in, progressive or bust gambol that berwick has winged. Unhappily for Kayyem, it’s unconvincing for a novice candidate to present as competent and idealist. Even for someone already an office holder, it would be difficulty to be both, especially in this season, when voters disbelieve that office holders are competent and distrust that idealists really mean it. Thus the success of Grossman and Berwick : because Grossman has proven himself uniquely competent, and Berwick, as a doctor successful in private practice and government, has the health care issue credibly to himself as well as the bedside manner that we expect of a physician.

And what of Martha Coakley, whom the polls say is still the choice of most Democratic voters ? Among activists, at least, she is falling way short because she has already failed the competency test, as a candidate first of all, and seems to continue to fail it — her money intake lags badly as does her presentation at Forums. There she demonstrates that an idealist, she isn’t. On those issues where she takes uncompromising stands — abortion rights, a prime example — she seems to move by calculation, not conviction.

Coakley may well still win the Democratic Primary, though I doubt it. If Kayyem doesn’t make the fifteen percent, I do not see her supporters going to a candidate even more diffident than Kayyem and — as one caucus goer put it — “hardly exciting.” Some will go to Berwick; but i think most will move to Steve Grossman.

If Grossman becomes the Democratic nominee, he will face a Republican who does seem convincing both as an idealist and a realist. Idealist, because in today’s GOP — even in Massachusetts, where the party at Governor level remains progressive — it’s idealistic to support marriage equality, abortion rights, expanding the earned income credit, and raising the minimum wage to $ 11.00 an hour. realistic, because Baker accepts the unemployment insurance give-back that Speaker Robert DeLeo insists on as a condition of his bringing the minimum wage hike to a vote.

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^ leader and voice of the Governor GOP party, one of two MA GOP Parties : Charlie Baker with st rep Jim Lyons of North Andover and (on bottom right) Monica Medeiros, candidate in the Fifth Middlesex Senate District

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^ representing the “idealism” of the “left outs, the ignored” : Mark Fisher

It’s because Baker convinces both as idealist and realist that he will win his primary against a Tea Party opponent. Mark Fisher almost perfectly represents the idealist wing of today’s Massachusetts GOP. He goes as all-in on the Tea Party;s agenda as Don Berwick does on the Wish list of Progressives. Fisher rejects marriage equality, abortion rights, a minimum wage rise. Fisher dismisses undocumented immigrants as “illegals’ and promises to make life in Massachusetts as difficult for them as he can. Fisher bitterly brandishes “gun rights.” Indeed, Fisher — a classy guy one on one — projects, in his public pronouncements, an angry tone; he rocks his “salt of the earth, long ignored” voters as they rock themselves : angry to be ignored, lashing out at those who get the attention of officials who ignore them, pissed off at Turnpike toll takers, angry about taxes that they see being spent on Boston but not out where they live.

There is, in Fisher’s campaign, an idealism of sorts — he calls it “principles” — as off the table as Berwick’s; but what a toxic idealism it is ! Anger is not a policy, scapegoating people is not legislation, and opposition to marriage equality and women’s reproductive rights is anathema to a large majority of Massachusetts voters. Only within the State’s eleven percent who register GOP does Fisher’s “idealism” have legs. Just as the idealistic Berwick has won himself a significant activist following, so Fisher’s views comport with a significantly GOP activism.

Right-wing actives have captured the GOP State Committee; this we saw in last week’s 52 to 16 vote to adopt the “values voters” platform. But the views these people espouse, their wagons circled in redoubts of reaction like the so-called “Massachusetts Republican Assembly” — which blithely calls itself “the Republican wing of the Republican party” — no more command a majority of GOP voters than the progressivism of Don Berwick commands a majority of Democrats.

It would be unlikely to find a democratic activist as negative as Fisher’s left-outs. The Democratic party is Massachusetts’s governing party; no Democrat is a “left-out.” But our GOP, except on the Governor level, runs nothing.

In fact the gulf in our GOP between Fisher’s “left-outs” and Charlie Baker’s confident moderates derives directly from this split. In fact, the he Massachusetts GOP is nothing less than two entirely separate political parties : one, a Governor GOP party, dedicated to electing its Governor — a party to which a large majority of GOP voters belongs and whose followers do not see themselves as left out or ignored; and two, a “Grass roots” GOP, spearheaded by idealists who are indeed an interest left aside by an overwhelming State consensus on the issues these “grass roots’ actives care about.  care about. Statewide, the Grass roots GOP numbers barely five percent of all voters; but within the eleven percent registered as republicans they’re a significant number — polls say 39% of the GOP whole.

Not surprisingly, the Grass roots GOP dominates in those regions of the state most alienated from Boston, in which GOP registration (and like-minded “unenrolleds”) count a majority of all voters. Almost all the State’s 30 GOP legislators represent Grass Roots GOP communities. How could it be otherwise ? the Grass roots GOP’s stands on the issues make its election impossible in most Massachusetts areas, and in any case, the Governor GOP hasn’t much interest in winning legislative elections on its realist-suburb turf. It’s far readier to accept — and usually can count on — the support of Democratic legislative realists. Can’t do that if you’re running GOP candidates against them !

NOTE : it wasn’t always this way. During the period 1990 to 2006, when Massachusetts had four consecutive GOP Governors, the entire GOP grass roots was deployed on behalf of the Governor. But since 2006 the Governor has been a democrat. With the Governor GOP out of power, the grass roots GOP has been as left out and ignored as it claims to be, and its embrace of the politics of a minority had a certain practicality about it.

Though at what a price !

In the Democratic Party, the division between realists and idealists takes a very different shape, because both mindsets win elections and thus feel anything but ignored or left out. Their differences are those of a contract negotiation, both parties knowing that once a contract is agreed to, each side will have to carry it out; and are quite ready to do so because they’re already doing it.

It is good that Mark Fisher has arisen to give voice to the left-outs. If the rest of us take their anger, their bitterness, their disparagement of everything that “Boston” means to them — huge taxpayer dollars spent; public transit; enormous state government programs; social inclusion — indeed, celebration — of many lifestyles, languages, and immigrants of all conditions; bicycles and night life; rejection of gun culture; the Unions and high wages; devotion to quality of life issues — as seriously as they hate us, perhaps we can find a way to bring these voters back into the community we call “Massachusetts.” And perhaps not. We will probably never see Don Berwick’s single-payer health insurance adopted in Massachusetts, or his graduated income tax. Never might also be the timeline for Mark Fisher’s voters. And maybe that’s OK. After all, what’s an idealism good for if the realists can absorb it ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

5TH SUFFOLK DISTRICT : THE RACE BEGINS ON AN AMBUSH MOMENT

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^ “Henriquez intends to run in September” : State Rep Russell Holmes tells his ward 14 caucus

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There we all were, yesterday, at the Ward 14 Democratic caucus, at the Joseph Lee School on Talbot Avenue, two 5th Suffolk Special Election candidates among us, Jen Johnson and Barry Lawton, because one large precinct of ward 14 is in the District. Having listened to bushels of candidates plunk for votes; we were all about to call it a day, have cookies and a drink and socialize; when, completely unannounced, the caucus chair, State Representative Russell Holmes, decided to change the subject completely.

“We in the House had other options than to expel Carlos Henriquez,” he said — not that anyone in the room had asked him about that event, which took place almost a month prior; “I felt that censure was the right option.

And then came the ambush.

“When he ran in 2012 after the indictment, he had opponents in the primary. One got 40 votes, the other got 60. In the final, his opponent got 2000 votes, Carlos got 9000.” He continued : “I spoke to Carlos last week, he can’t run now, but he intends to run in September.”

So much for the candidates standing there, guests, in Holmes’s caucus. And for the voters of the 5th Suffolk who are now being aked to choose a successor to the disgraced Henriquez.

Why Holmes, who represents the 6th Suffolk District, bordering the 5th Suffolk on its west, chose to belittle both the Special Election and the candidates running it, I will not guess. He didn’t give any motive. Is it in any way his affair whom the voters of a District not his choose to be their State house voice ? Granted that Holmes has a right to an opinion and to express it; still, there are ways to do that and ways not to do it. If either Jen Johnson or Barry Lawton, present at the caucus, win the District’s vote on April 29th, Holmes will have some fences to mend. He’ll have fences to mend as well if the seat is won by Evandro Carvalho or Karen Charles-Peterson, the other two candidates. It won’t be easy to mend those fences if Holmes remains committed to seeing them defeated by Henriquez in the September Primary.

But the human soul works in ways beyond any man’s control; by what he said, Holmes has now given voters of the 5th District a fighting reason to come out in big numbers to choose their own voice, not Holmes’s; and to send Henriquez a message too, that his time has passed, September or no September.

My reporting of the 5th Suffolk District’s special election will continue, and it will expand. Several District events portend; I will attend many and hope there to converse with Charles-Petersen and Carvalho.

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^ citizen reformer : Jen Johnson at the Ward 14 caucus

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^ eloquence and State House “cred” : Barry Lawton addressing the ward 14 caucus

For now, I’ll just add two observations, from conversing with candidates Johnson and Lawton yesterday: Lawton is an eloquent speaker with an impressive State House, staff resume. He knows the turf and would be able to give his extremely diverse, mostly low-income voters some serious clout. Jen Johnson is a soft-spoken, citizen reformer — “environmental activist,” she described herself speaking to the caucus-goers — with an engaging personality and much idealism of a kind usuallly found in upper-income suburbs, not low-income urban districts. As easily as Lawton would meld with the House’s leadership, Johnson seems likely to join the House’s Progressive caucus. I like both her and Lawton a lot. (Disclosure : I know Johnson, having met her last year at a house-party for then Mayor candidate Felix G. Arroyo.)

As for the Henriquez matter : Holmes having brought it up, my own state Rep, John Keenan of Salem, told me, when I asked him, that the house felt that it had to make a sitting member’s domestic violence conviction — leading to a jail sentence — an expulsion offense; that the credibility of the body, with women voters, was at stake. We take domestioc violence crimes very, very seriously, he said.

The vote was 146 to 5. Not exactly a close call.

Was the vote a race thing, as some Henriquez supporters have asserted ? You can’t prove that by the House vote. Not one Hispanic House member voted “No.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere