MAGOV14 : DIVISIONS AND UNITIES SHAPING THE OUTCOME

2 Speaker DeLeo3 Cha Baker

^ allies even though neither can admit it : the two men who dominate Massachusetts state politics today : Speaker DeLeo and GOP governor candidate Charlie Baker

—- —- —-

No one should have been surprised to see Don Berwick, the most vocally progressive Democratic candidate, win 15 percent of the Democratic convention vote last Saturday. The surprise was that he won much more : a full 22 percent, only one point behind second place finisher Attorney general Martha Coakley, who leads all polls but whom activists remain skeptical of and rightly so).

Berwick now commands a solid position in the Democratic field. Fringe he may once have been seen. No longer. He continues to win power endorsements, adding State Senators Ken Donnelly and Dan Wolf to his list. Wolf would have been a leading candidate himself, had the state’s Ethics Commission not caved his candidacy (as you may recall). His endorsement of Berwick will certainly matter for the Democrats’ September primary.

Berwick is surging because Democrats of an ideological bent want to be heard and felt and listened to. Progressives, as they style themselves, see that the state’s legislative leadership — all of it Democratic — does not share their concerns or support their agenda and that that leadership has the power to snuff progressive voices out. Time and time again i have heard progressive Democrats complain — bitterly — about “the legislative leadership,’ by which, of course, they mean Speaker Robert DeLeo. Berwick is the progressives’ answer to what they see as DeLeo’s shutting them out.

The current Speaker is definitely no progressive. His constituency is business. That and traditional labor, but business first of all. It’s about the money. Business interests have the ear of Speaker DeLeo — a fact he does not try to hide. As such, he is no friend of tax increases; when Governor Patrick last year called for $ 2 billion in new revenue for his Transportation Bill, the DeLeo-led House gave him $ 500 million, and that grudgingly.

That said, DeLeo’s business friendly agenda is no departure at all from the priorities of past speakers who, if anything, have been even more conservative than he.

In a state as Democratic voting as Massachusetts, business interests cannot afford to be exclusively, even primarily, Republican. Business has huge money to spend on lobbying its agendas, and it does so. Almost always, these past 25 years, business lobbying has dominated both the governor and the Speaker — the State’s two most powerful elected offices. In few states, if any, does the partnership between state government and local business go this far this successfully. Significantly that’s because a large portion of the state’s well-paying jobs, in building trades, health care, and education, arise from state government funds and legislation. In Massachusetts, the interests of business coincide with the interests of a great many wage earners and salaried people, and these people dominate the ranks of our state’s political activists. it’s no surprise at all that the current Democratic governor campaign has concentrated on the upper income suburbs of Boston and on the City’s highest income wards.

Unfortunately for Speaker deLeo, the state’s high-income voters (and some of its businesses are not uniformly as tax-skeptical as he is. Our state’s Progressives inhabit primarily the upper income city wards and suburbs. as such, now that they have hit upon the Governor primary as a vehicle to make themselves seriously felt, Democratic progressives have managed, with Don Berwick, to seriously inconvenience the Speaker and his very powerful legislative and lobbying allies. most of these would, I suspect, like to see Steve Grossman the Democratic nominee. They know him and they believe they can bring him to their side. In this they aren’t wrong. Grossman talks “job creator’ talk so aggressively you’d think he was Mitt Romney.

Yet even Grossman now calls himself “the progressive job creator.’ Obviously he sees himself being gouged from the left.

the division between the DeLeo constituency and the Progressives is causing big problems for Martha Cockney. Who, exactly, are her voters ? certainly not the progressives; almost certainly not the DeLeo people. as i see it, her voters are the non-involved, people who know her name and he work as Attorney General and not much else. Will that work in a Primary, in which the involved vote big time, the less involved not so much ? maybe so; because Coakley is the only woman in the race, and she polls very strongly with women voters. But we will see.

Meanwhile, as the Democrats split between progressives and DeLeo-ites, Charlie Baker is presenting a campaign perfectly attuned to alliance with DeLeo on business interests and also with DeLeo on labor issues. it is axiomatic in Massachusetts that only a Republican governor has a power base independent enough to face the Speaker on equal terms. the Progressives tally about 25 to 33 percent of Democrats, maybe 15-20 percent of all voters; much less than Charlie Baker’s 30-32 percent core.) Beyond the axiomatic, however, is baker’s current campaign, in which support for a $ 10.50 minimum age — the nation’s highest — is accompanied by expanding the earned income tax credit and initiating some tax credits to corporations for hiring welfare recipients and offsets to the wage hike. if you read Baker’s plan — see the link below ** — you’ll find it remarkably like what Speaker deLeo wants to enact. What is more, baker is having success bringing city voters to his side, communities of color included and several ethnic communities. He’s doing it in Boston and in Worcester and in Lynn, next door to his home town of Swampscott. Baker’;s Lynn campaign has drawn no media attention at all, but recently he has held several Lynn rallies at which hundreds of folks — mostly communities of color and immigrants — have gathered. Lynn is usually a 7500 vote victory for a democrat. I think Baker will carry Lynn this time. A 7500 vote turn around isn’t that big, but it is significant of Baker’s concentration upon Essex County generally : his home base, and one that he is pushing hard to win, as he probably must.

** Link to Charlie baker’s economic plan : https://charliebaker2014.com/opportunity

Some Democrats want to compare baker’s campaign to that of Scott Brown in 2012. The comparison is false. The Baker campaign is sui generis and quite ground breaking ion its unification of many voter groups who have much in common that has not been attended to by our state;s governor campaigns since at least 1994 if ever. While the Democrats split, the baker campaign unifies. i suspect that Speaker DeLeo is quite happy to see it. Nov ember’s result is beginning to take shape.

—- Mike Freedberg / here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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