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In Massachusetts we elect our state records keeper. We call him the “Secretary of the Commonwealth.” You may have visited its office, on the 17th floor of the Ashburton Place state office building. Probably if you did so it was to file corporation papers or to search an election tally on behalf of a candidate. The Secretary of the Commonwealth keeps both.

Anyhow, it’s 2014, and this year — every fourth year — we elect who that records keeper will be. For the past 20 years or so Bill Galvin has been the man. Once a state legislator from Boston’s Brighton section, Galvin developed a reputation as the man most knowledgeable about Massachusetts election statistics and laws and used that reputation to win the records keeper job. He has not been seriously challenged since — or, if he has, I cannot recall it.

This year Galvin finally has a meaningful challenger, Malden City Councillor David D’Arcangelo. Davis the 44 year old son of Tony D’Arcangelo, who in the 1960s was a protege of then Governor John Volpe, living in East Boston and, in 1968, running fir state Representative in “Eastie,’ a campaign that I, then just a kid, worked on — and reported from, as a stringer or AVATAR, then Boston’s outrageous alternative weekly.

David D’Arcangelo talked at length recently about his late Dad — a pixie of a man but tough as they came — and then about his own race this year against Secretary Galvin. It hasn’t been easy and isn’t easy now. The media, he says, aren’t interested, and there isn’t much money. He is right about that. OCPF reports through June 30, 2014 show D’arcangelo raising a total of $ 19,856, with $ 4,185 on hand; meanwhile Bill Galvin has raised about $ 68,000 in the same period and has $ 641,969.33 iun his account.

Still, the voters don’t know or care much which of Galvin and D’Arcangelo is the rich guy and which the poor boy. If Galvin is doing a good job, as the voters see it, he gets re-elected. If not ? Then D’Arcangelo has a chance. And a chance he does have, because as D’Arcangelo points out, the Secretary’s website is as opaque as it gets, offering both too much information and too little and very hard to navigate from its dense and non-transparent front page.

“The people have a right to transparency,’ says D’Arcangelo, using one of this year’s election’s most popular campaign themes. “The state’s websites don ;t work, or they’re hard to figure out, difficult to navigate. The Secretary’s is one of the worst. We deserve better. it’s 2014 !”

D’Arcangelo is right. So, what will he do about it ? “You ‘ll see an entirely new website built,’ he says. “using current technology. The Secretary should have a facebook page and a twitter presence. Does Galvin have these ? Not that i can see.”

Of course D’Arcangelo is right; in 2014 any elected official should communicate directly with the public on facebook, twitter, even — says D’Arcangelo — via instagram.

D’Arcangelo expands upon the transparency theme. “Galvin has purchased substantial public service announcements, but you can’t find out what he paid for them the source of the funds, or even see the announcements themselves. These are public records and should be accessible to all. If i am elected, they will be !”

Again, D’Arcangelo is right. The Secretary’s public service announcements are public records, easily abused by an elected office holder wielding them to promote his name. It’s a borderline decision, and one I do not second guess for any public official. Still, the public has a right to know their cost and who produced them, and to see the announcement tapes.

Transparency and modernization may not seem sexy to the average voter, but communication immediacy is how we live in the age of facebook and twitter, and most voters do get that. If D’Arcangelo can capture even a minute or two of the public’s attention, he can put Secretary Galvin’s continued election to office seriously at risk. And get some answers to his challenges.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 Baker and Coakley BG

^ Baker stumbles, recovers, and polls well ; Martha Coakley pounces — but mishandles even that.

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Charlie Baker, GOP candidate for Governor, got a huge present yesterday : a new Boston Globe poll according hm his best numbers yet. In a matchup with likely Democratic nominee Martha Coakley he now gets 35 to her 40, with a full one-quarter of voters still undecided or supporting one of the non-party candidates.

This was good news indeed — and there was more: I’ll discuss it below — especially after days in which Baker, running as the accomplished manager of state government, stumbled in his management of himself.

On Wednesday he told the Boston Globe that “Hobby Lobby doesn’t change a thing in Massachusetts, because our own health care law accords women all their health care needs.”

Immediately all three Democratic candidates charged Baker with going South on women’s health care — Coakley, in her typical classless fashion, used Baker’s remarks to fuel a fundraising letter.

Actually, all three Democrats didn’t know the whole story. On Wednesday night Baker’s wife Lauren and his running mate, Karyn Polito, were on stage at NARAL’s “Supreme rally.” Both gave me — I was there as a WGBH journalist — statements in which they made very clear their outrage about both the Hobby Lobby and Buffer Zone Law rulings. I thus knew that the statement that Baker gave to the Globe could not be the entire picture.

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^ GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Karyn Polito at Supreme rally : she gave me this statement : “I have always supported women’s rights to access health care and am here to protest the Supreme Court rulings !”

Next day, in fact, Baker reversed his remarks. He agreed that there might be some corporations in Massachusetts that would qualify under the Hobby Lobby ruling (in which the Court gave closely-held corporations an exemption from the ACA’s requirements on Freedom of Religion Act grounds)  for an exemption from providing women employees full access to contraceptive health care. “If that happens,” Baker said, “my administration will provide these women contraceptive health care through public funding.” Baker also encouraged Governor Patrick and legislators to devise a new abortion clinic “protection zone” in light of the Buffer zone law being struck down.

All good; and, in fact, the misspeak gave Baker a chance, in the full glare of news, to make clear his uncompromising support for women’s full access to health care, including pregnancy care.

That part of the flap will end; and it’s likely that Baker will now have many media opportunities to repeat his strong support for women’s health care. But he did stumble; and as the “competent manager’ candidate, Baker should not be stumbling how he manages his own statements. It better not happen again. Baker needs to be sure of himself, to speak his true mind and not to try to hedge — which is what I think he was attempting. Vital issues like women’s health care cannot be compromised away or smoothed; a Massachusetts governor has to be vocal, strong, morally sure of the right thing — as was Mayor Marty Walsh in his speech at the Supreme rally. Baker would do well to study vidclips of that speech and to adopt Walsh’s indignant moral certainty about the rights of women and of all. it’s what we expect, — and always have expected — here in Massachusetts, of our political leaders.

And now to the Boston Globe poll. If its findings are accurate, Baker stands in a very good position to be our next governor :

His favorable-unfavorable rating is 47 favorable, only 18 unfavorable. Yes, 20 percent of voters still don’t recognize his name. that needs be worked on.

Coakley’s numbers ? Not quite as good as Charlie’s. 54 favorable;le, 36 unfavorable. But only 6 percent of voters don’t recognize her.

Coakley’s the dominant Democrat.  Steve Grossman’s numbers are 32 percent favorable, 13 unfavorable, 55 percent unsure or don’t know him. Don Berwick, for all the news noise he has made, barely registers with voters : 10 percent favorable, 4 percent unfavorable, a full 86 percent unsure or don’t know him. Two months from primary day, Martha Coakley absolutely commands : 53 percent to Grossman’s 17 and Berwick’s 5.

The poll also shows that Massachusetts voters feel optimistic about our state’s economy and lifestyle. Asked to agree or disagree with the statement “living in Massachusetts is very expensive but worth it,”  a full 65 percent say it’s worth it, only 30 percent say it isn’t worth it.

Those who oppose casinos will also have to accept that their view is, thankfully, a minority position. 51 of voters say “keep the casino law in place”; 41 percent say repeal it.

Charlie Baker in this poll looks well positioned, despite all — despite the national GOP’s depressing negativity–  to be our next Governor : IF he can win a majority of the 20 percent still undecided. He will find himself leading voters who are glad to live in Massachusetts, even at great expense; who feel confident about the future; who care a lot about women’s health care rights, and who want an open, tolerant, liberal society — and will have it, well managed from the State House, assuming the manager candidate doesn’t fumble his advantage away.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 Baker and Coakley BG

^ Charlie Baker(right) trails Martha Coakley (left) in votes but he has already won the money campaign. He had running mate Karyn Polito have on hand more money than all three Democrats combined.

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Recent polls of the Massachusetts governor race show that Charlie Baker and his running mate Karyn Polito have plenty of catching up to do. If Attorney General Martha Coakley becomes the Democratic nominee, as seems most likely, Baker and Polito will find themselves nine to twelve points lacking. Much of that gap represents votes now going to independents Jeff McCormack and Evan Falchuk : about 13 percent, a tally larger than the gap between Baker and Coakley. Yet there is no reason at all to suppose that all these votes would be Baker’s were the two independents not in the race.

Yesterday i analyzed the huge catching up that baker and Polito will have to do if they are to win over Martha Coakley in November. Today I will analyze the strengths of the Baker/Polito campaign. First of all is the money. Below is what the four chief governor candidates reported for the second half of june :

Baker began the month at $ 881,184.92; he raised 311,968.50o; spent 84,998; and ended the month with $ 1,108,155.42.

Baker’s running mate Karyn Polito began the month with 421,284,48; raised 123,25.62; spent 43,536.75; and ended june with 500,953.15

Add Baker’s and Polito’s ending balances together, you find $ 1,609,108.57 — a huge amount compared to numbers reported by the three Democrats :

1.Martha Coakley began mid-June with 447,673.29; raised 134,155.23′ spent 91,572.33; and ended june with 490,296.19.

2.State treasurer Seve Grossman began mid June with 896,059.85; raised 103,993.19; spent 68,156.92; and closed out with 931,897.02.

3.Don Berwick reported 199,547.55 at mid June; raised 82,343.39; spent 57,012.30; and ended with 224,878.64.

the advantages here are all to Baker and Polito, and hugely so. because :

1.The Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor also raised money, but i do not parse it because on the Democratic side there is no team. None of the three Democratic candidates for Governor knows who his or her running mate will be, and none can team up with either of the two whose names will be on the Primary ballot.

2.Baker alone has raised more money, and has more on hand, than either of the three Democrats. Adding in Polito’s totals, the team has far more money on hand than all three Democrats combined. these are telling figures, because all the money raised by the candidates so far comes almost exclusively from individuals, not PACs, and represent actual voter support.

Baker continues to lack in votes what he gains in donations. Nonetheless, his — and Karyn Polito’s money raising represents solid strength which, if it continues, can reach a kind of “critical mass” as voters begin to feel the issues strength of the Baker/Polito campaign. I have said all along that Baker possesses two critical advantages : first, he has an actual running team mate and can thus project to voters both how he will govern and why he will be able to govern. Second, he and Polito have amassed an independent power following, easy to assess through their donor list, with which to confront Speaker DeLeo when legislation is at issue.

This argument has not registered with many voters yet;l with most it night never register, as such. But baker and Polito can project it by way of their focus on management and innovation — a major campaign theme for Baker at least since his party’s convention back in March. Being able to get Speaker Robert DeLeo to advance the governor’s legislative agenda is no minor matter,. it’s the essence of being governor in more than name only. Governor Patrick has time and again had his legislative priorities rejected or amended almost beyond recognition; and Democratic Progressives have made no bones about being shut out of the Speaker’s agenda. If Baker — by his argument, his bio, or his vast fundraising base, or by all of these — can convince activist voters that he can move the Speaker as the three Democrats cannot, he can win this election, even though the polls right now do not show it.

He will have to regroup. The success that he seemed to have, at the beginning of June, in drawing city voters yo his side has faded. He needs to recover his city voter groove. He also needs to convince women voters that their health care concerns will be a priority for him. Polito will have to be the point person, a role that she is marvelously capable of. Indeed, if Baker wins, it will be because of Karyn Polito, both for her fundraising strength and her appeal to Worcester area voters and women generally.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




1 Baker and Coakley BG

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^ difficult days for Charlie baker, good days for Martha Coakley and Don Berwick

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Two rulings handed down by the Supreme Court last week threaten to affect Massachusetts’s Governor election significantly. the boost Martha Coakley — already a clear favorite –and Don Berwick, and they set back those of Steve Grossman and Charlie Baker.

The Hobby Lobby ruling has the wider impact. Because it allows corporations to deny contraceptive health care to women on grounds of “deeply held religious faith”: — faith that permits men to obtain Viagra, by the way — it arouses all women voters : score for Coakley. but because the High Court also suggested that women could obtain contraceptive health care from the Federal government as part of Medicare, it seemed to endorse the “single payer” (Medicare) system : and that’s a score for Don Berwick, who has made adoption of “single payer a priority of his campaign.

The Buffer Zone Law ruling — it was found unconstitutional by 9 to 0 — probably impacts the campaign even more deeply. The law at issue was our state’s. Hobby Lobbys there are none here, and few corporations that would use religion as a route to denying health care to women. But every woman who seeks clinical advice on a pregnancy is now faced with being confronted by perfect strangers getting into these women’ s most personal private body business. It;s not a prospect that anyone I know would welcome. It has happened to me, on other matters. I was able to see off, with a pleasantry or an unanswerable question, these interrupters of my life. Women confronted so might not be so lucky, nor want to chance it. And even though the Buffer Zone Law ruling was unanimous, and certainly correct from a first amendment point of view — after all, as a supporter of the ruling pointed out to me, the Curt allows panhandlers to be in our faces, what’s different here ? — women affected won’t take it as such. They will feel, see, almost smell the confrontations they now must put up with, ad they can’t like that the Court put them in that space.

Martha Coakley defended the Buffer Law fiercely. She has promised to forge a different means of safeguarding women from such confrontations. So has Governor Patrick. i hope they find a way, because otherwise it means hiring hundreds of special duty police to patrol outside pregnancy clinics.

While Coakley has gone on the attack — as she should — Charlie Baker has said nothing. He has avoided the issue. I fully understand. It aggravates his weaknesses. As the GOP candidate, he heads a coalition that includes the state’s “pro life” voters, who tolerate his solid pro-choice position because they suspect that he will, at least, listen to them and will not make protection of women’s health rights a priority, and because they know that Coakley, Berwick, and Grossman will in fact make women’s health care a priority. I think these Baker voters are right, and that’s the problem; I suspect that the crucial block of women voters who will decide this election also know it.

Or, if they didn’t know it, or care much, because women’s health rights are so firmly established in Massachusetts, they do now care because even in Massachusetts those tights are now threatened by Supreme Court decisions.

Baker has not had a good two weeks. Today’s Boston Globe poll has him losing to Coakley by 40 to 31 and drawing only 9 % of Democratic voters. In Massachusetts a GOP candidate usually needs 18 to 20 %^ of Democrats to win — in his 2012 loss, Scott Brown won 12 % of Democrats. (I shall analyze the Globe poll in a separate column to come later today.) The recent WBUR poll had even les good news for Baker. It showed him losing to Coakley 42 to 28; and though it also shows him beating Steve Grossman and trouncing Don Berwick, Coakley has maintained a strong lead almost throughout this year and can only get stronger as a result of the High court rulings. Baker’s campaign has also begun to narrow its focus : business, business, business. we all like businesses; but Massachusetts is a “values” state — fortunately our values are entirely progressive ones — and for Baker to not step to the forefront of voicing Massachusetts values is to concede the election. No more can — or should — a Massachusetts election be only about business than it can be only about Labor.

When a candidate narrows his focus, retreating to his core, as did the campaign of Scott Brown in 2012 after polls turned against him, it’s a sign that he is being pushed out of the center. Baker ran a smart, aggressive, ground breaking campaign until mid-June, one that connected him city voters, voicing city voters’ concerns and turning the flank of a very suburban, high-income Democratic Primary. now that has all changed. The Democrats have taken back much of the city voter action. they’ve held Forums in the city, dug deeply into voters who have been theirs all along until for six months or so they were ignored.

Baker will still do better in the big cities than Scott Brown did. He can’t be dislodged in Essex County, and he likely has a solid core of support in Worcester. In Boston, too, he holds strong cards in several ethnic communities. But I see no sign right now that the receptivity to baker that held sway six weeks ago still rules. How can it after these two Court rulings ? For women voters, it’s now war time. And war time means, fr these women, supporting Martha Coakley, like her or not. My guess is that the Court rulings gain her two to four points — a lot in what might have been a close election.

The only person who I see with a chance to stop Coakley is Don Berwick. In a Democratic Primary, his strong advocacy of single payer now makes timely sense, compelling sense. and if he is not a woman, as is Coakley, he is trusted by Democratic activists, as Coakley is not, and addresses Massachusetts values far more eloquently than Coakley and with passion that she utterly lacks. Given that Grossman cannot out-woman Coakley or even begin to compete with Berwick’s passionate advocacy, it would mot surprise me to see Berwick win the Primary.

Could he then beat Baker ? In such a race baker would be the Coakley : the hard to pin down, long explanation, out of focus candidate — versus Berwick, the ultimate heat of passion candidate. Baker could win that comparison if he sounds wise and competent, as he usually can, and Berwick sounds like a hell-burner, as he often does.

As far as I can tell right now, this prospect is Baker’s only chance of winning the office he is so naturally fit to perform.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 Ruth Ginsburg

^ Ruth Ginsburg, Dissenting justice. From her dissent, these words :  “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs,” Ginsburg wrote. She said she feared that with its decision, the court had “ventured into a minefield.”

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On Monday, the Supreme Court, by a 5 to 4 majority, ruled that the owner of a corporation may, on the grounds of religion, deny an employee insurance coverage for contraception therapy. You may read the Court’s opinion by clicking this link :

Click to access 13-354_olp1.pdf

The link also gives Justice Ginsburg’s fervent, eloquent, definitive dissent, a dissent that I hope every American who is not lashed to the mast of orthodoxy reads, not once but often !

The decision is as black a mark on the Court’s record as any decision it has made since the early 1930s. By what theory, however arrived at, can it be lawful for an employer to interpose its boss’s religion between its employees and health insurance coverage ? A company’s employees do not sign on to an employer boss’s religion. They sign on to work a job. Even if a boss lets prospective employees know in advance of hiring that his religion will refuse the employee certain insurance coverage, he is in the wrong. By what law can he discriminate against employees who do not consent to his religion ?

That’s the basics; but it’s not the whole story of this tragic decision. Note that the coverage denied is for women’;s health care — not men’s.  That’s because in most religions, and always in the rigid religions,  men are OK and women are not. Men have rights, women have burdens.

The decision is also ironic. Who’d have guessed that the five who made this finding’s majority opinion would advise women to seek contraceptive insurance coverage from the Federal government ? As Robert Reich pointed out not an hour after I had already done so, the five justices offer women insurance through Medicare — single payer !

Which is the big, unspoken consequence of this decision. In a sense, the five justices have a point : the ACA plays into the whims and quirks of every employer that offers health insurance. The ACA made a huge mistake in not simply expanding Medicare to cover everybody — which is the system in every other first world nation — and be done with a Rube Goldberg world of employers, private insurers, health care exchanges, websites that don’t work, confusion and complication.

Should have, but didn’t, because President Obama wanted to compromise.

Compromise ? With the absolutists of religion there is no compromise. it’s their way or damnation.

The Burwell decision is a tipping point in the nation’s social history. we will now either slide backward into theocracy and all of its cruel history of torture and death — visit the 1600s some time — or we will (1) reverse the Burwell decision and (2) go single payer insurance, so that bosses with personal agendas will never again bar anyone’s door to a basic civil right : health care as doctors and all other health professionals advise it.

To get to this, we will have to elect a Democratic President in 2016, and re-elect her in 2020 — we dare not trust the Republican party of today, most of which applauds this bad decision — because only she will appoint justices who will put human rights and needs ahead of private pique and thus assure that the law equally advances the aspirations, rights, and dignity of actual human people.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere