VOTERS, BUT NOT THE POLITICIANS, TUNE OUT THIS YEAR’S MASSACHUSETTS ELECTION

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^ a race that activists and politcal insiders care about moves to the top in a year when non-activist, non-insider voters don’t seem to care at all : Suffolk Register of Probate candidates (top) Marty Keogh and (bottom) Felix D. Arroyo

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Everybody I talk to tells me that hardly anyone out there cares about this year’s Massachusetts election. I see it too. At candidate Forums there’s more strawberries in the food bowls on offer than people in the audience.

Even Governor Forums come up short. The largest that i have attended — and i’ve covered two dozen at least — were State Representative Jay Kaufman’s Forum in Lexington, way back in January, and the SEIU 1199 Forum at its South Boston hedquarters in May. Those Forums drew several hundred people — activists all, however, hardly an “ordinary voter” in the rooms. As for the other Forums, 100 people in the hall might be too generous an estimate.

It’s no better in the spirited Attorney General race. Maura Healey draws forty to sixty peo;ple to her meet and greets; Warren Tolman works the room at many candidates’ events, shaking maybe eighty hands if he’s lucky. Tolman last night was the star of a meet and greet at Boston City Councillor Tim McCarthy’s house; my source (I was elsewhere, at a Charlie Baker event) says that the house was packed full. That sounds like the sme number — sixty — that seems a ceiling in this i,mpportant contest.

A few state legislature races seem to have aroused the attention of so,me average voters. Both Susannah Whipps Lee, running in the 2n d Franklin District, and Mike Valanzola, seeking election to the Worcester-Hampshire-Hampden-Middlsex state senate seat left open by Stephen Brewer’s retirement, draw more than 100 people to their events. The 12th Essex state representative race between Democrats Jim Moutsoulas and Beverly Griffin Dunne and GOP incumbent Leah Cole, attarcts decent crowds to this or that. I also see a fair burst of acvtivity in Lynn, where Charlie Gallo, Brendan Crighton, nmd Katerina Panagiotakis Koudanis ares clashing to represent the 11th Essex District. Once in a wbhile I even ee some activity in Winchester and Stoneham, where caroline Colarusso (R) and Mike Bettencourt (D) seek to succeed Democrat jason Lewis, newly elected tio theState Senate.

One race that has definitely aroused a few non-political citizens is the the expensive contest in the 6th Congressional disttrict, between John Tierney, Rich Tisei, Seth Moulton, and two less knowns, has aroused many voters to do something about it. But the 6th Congress race involves national issues, n ot massachusetts local matters. You’d expect, you’d even hope, that voters would care a lot about who voice their concerns in the Congress

It does not seem, however, that many ordinary voters care at all who their new governor, attorney general, treasurer, or secretary of state will be; nor do many of the state legiuslative contests look alarmingly stormy. Tempests in teapots seems more like it other than the few cases I have excepted.

Indeed, the one local Boston race that is drawing substantial interest — that for Register of Probate — illusttrates this year’s political dynamic with high irony. two of the five candidates in it, Felix D. Arroyo and Marty Keogh, draw substatial numners of people to thrir events; Arroyo has Mayor Walsh’s support, and Keogh has that of many attorneys who practice law in specialties for which disputes get heard in Probate Coiurt.

I attended a Keogh event three nights ago that welcomed at least 120 people, filling an entire restaurant. Back in May, a similar Arroyo event accomplished the same.

It says much about this year’s election that a race for an ofice hardly any ordinary voter knows anything about outguns contests for legsialtive and statewide offices that matter a lot. Or that should matter.

Activists and the “political community’ care a lot, however, about offices like Register of Probate. This year, as always, the activists are active, the politicals are politicking. In a year when almost no ordinary voters are doing anything except texting summer boat excursions, boasting beach bikinis, and facebooking their kids’ summer camp photos, the activists and political.s dominate. Which is how they like it.

Will things go this way even as November’s election day rolls around ? Some smart alecks are predicting thaty only half the state’s voters will vote in November. That woiuld be an historic low, an embarrassment for a state in which tiurnouts of 70 pervent and more have been the norm.

—- 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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