TWO SPECIAL ELECTIONS : WHAT THEY TELL US ABOUT POLITICS IN MASSACHUSETTS

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^ two winners, each with close ties to Governor baker ; Adrian Madaro (L) Hannah Elizabeth Kane (R)

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Yesterday voters in two state representative districts filled two House seats vacant because their holders joined Governor Baker’s administration. Adrian Madaro will now represent East Boston, succeeding Carlo Basile, who now serves as Baker’s appointments secretary. Hannah Elizabeth Kane will now speak for Shrewsbury and part of Westboro, succeeding Matt Beaton, who has become Baker’s Secretary of Energy.

Madaro, who served four years as Carlo Basile’s chief of staff at the state House, convincingly won a five-candidate Democratic primary on March 3rd and took 90 percent of yesterday’s vote against Joanne Pomodoro, an Independent. Kane, a Republican, won a narrow, 52 to 48 victory over a Democratic opponent, Shrewsbury School Committeeman Jason Palitsch.

Both winners have close ties to Governor Baker, and the scale and nature of each’s win tells us a lot about the makeup and momentum in Baker’s following. Madaro won his primary, annd the final, with almost no outside help. He relied on a smart, energetic cadre of young, even very young campaigners drawn from his local area age group, almost all of whom he seems to know personally and well. With these followers he defeated Mayor Walsh’s chosen candidate handily in the primary despite the tons of outside operatives Walsh’s team brought into the district. Meanwhile, Hannah Kane relied — maybe had to rely — heavily on outside help, much of it supplied by the State’s Republican party, to beat back Palitsch’s mostly local, younger, energized campaign of meet & greet parties.

Kane has a long and impressive resume as a civic leader in Shrewsbury. In a town carried by Baker, last November, by 20 points one might have thought she would win easily. But the warning signs were there early. Even as Baker triumphed in Shrewsbury, so did Democrat Maura Healey ; the town is not a Republican “lock.” Then came the Palitsch campiagn, vivid on social media, drawing many followers right away even as Kane started a twitter account from scratch. A month before election day, Palitsch’s twitter followers were mostly ordinary, local people, plus a few MetroWest politicians. Kane’s folowers were almost all Republican town Committees. After Baker got personally involved in the Kane campaign — a risky move — Kane’s twitter following tripled; but most of these were out of state folks or aggressive coservatives. Hardly any were local from Shrewsbury and Westboro, the district’s other community.

Curiously, the Madaro campaign didn’t engage large twitter numbers; but perhaps it wasn’t needed, because he, his campaign staff, and his supporters kept in constant touch via text messaging on smartphones. I saw this on primary day, as I drove voters to the polls, one name, address, and phone number texted to me, one after another, and as I, having delivered the voter, texted back.

In East Boston, older voters played a part : they voted. Some also donated. In the Kane campaign, they were the majority of volunteers. And that is the problem that yesterday outlined for Baker : all of the energy, and more and more of the numbers, of his support comes from younger people, the majority of them city-living or city-oriented and hardly any of them registered as Republican. They’re a personal following, as long as he delivers palpable achievement and attends to social and economic justice.

Even then, it may not be enough. Baker also must command a strong majority vote in the Route 495 belt — of which Shrewsbury and Westboro form a core part. Shrewsury is so very key to Baker’s vote. It’s the hometown of his Lieutenant Governor and, now, of his Energy Secretary. If his candidate — with whom he personally campaigned, door to door no less, can’t win by better than 4,025 to 3,740 — and only by 122 votes in Shrewsbury itself — his majority is in trouble no matter how well liked he is in Boston and the “core area.”

Last November, Baker had that strong Worcester majority. Yet it wasn’t as overwhelming a win as Scott Brown, four years prior, claimed from Martha Coakley in his historic Senate race. Now comes the narrow Kane win. As I see it, Worcester County’s GOP numbers have passed their peak. Older and much more conserrvative than the State as a whole, the Worcester vote will become less and less a life-saver for any Republican candidate.

Baker’s re-election depends in part on how he responds. The election of every other GOP candidate faces a hurdle much, much higher.

—- 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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