2nd B and P

^ map of  the 2nd Bristol and Plymouth State Senate District, stretching from Easton past Brockton to Whitman, Hanover, Hanson, Halifax, East Bridgewater and Plympton

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The death of State Senator Tom Kennedy, beloved by all, occasioned a special election to choose a successor. That vote takes place next Tuesday, November 3rd.

I have never met either of the candidates, Democrat Michael Brady and Republican Geoff Diehl; I have communicated with Diehl on facebook for three years now. Clearly I know this District and its candidates less well than I should. Nonetheless, the election is coming, and I do have some grasp of the challenge facing the two men.

That challenge is posed by the enormous differences between the District’s big city, Brockton, and the towns surrounding it that the District includes. The political leanings of Boston extend far out to its suburbs. Not so Brockton. In recent elections it has voted about two to one Democrat: Charlie Baker lost it to Martha Coakley,12765 to 7415. Meanwhile, Baker sound ly defeated Coakley in the surrounding towns, 18,161 to 8836.

District wide, it was Baker over Coakley, 25,576 to 21,601.

Of course a State Senate District is not the entire state. Local issues and local personalities set the tone. Nonetheless, the two candidates are both State Representatives, quite locally equal. Diehl is prominently known as a leader of last year’s successful initiative to repeal gas tax indexing. Brady shows no similar statewide notice, but he has held elective office in Brockton since the mid-1990s, serving as a school committeeman and then City Councillor from Ward 2 before winning his State Representative seat in 2008. Meanwhile Diehl held no elective office — but served on Whitman’s finance and by law review committees — before winning his State Representative seat in 2010; but what he lacks in long time elective service he has more than made up in activism.

Campaign finance reports also show the two men more or less matched. In the latest, pre-primary reports, Brady had a balance of $ 29,981.08 on hand; raised $ 21,760; and had 22,144.39 ending balance. Diehl started with $ 26,428; raised 38,765.00; and ended with $ 38,036. Slight advantage Diehl, but only that.

UPDATE : Diehl quotes a local, Hanover based news article showing that he has raised $ 117,000 to Brady’s $ 58,000, and most of from donors in the District. If so. It’s a significant advantage.

All the above data suggests a small Diehl advantage, as does the support he is receiving from Governor Baker, whose winning percentage in the District (about 5 to 4) Diehl would love to match. But these do not make up the entire story. Diehl actually faces a disadvantage :

It is far easier to knock doors in a city like Brockton than in towns, where houses sit far apart. Brockton also comprises about half the total district. As home town advantage plays big in local races, Brady, from Brockton, can harvest a home town vote readily without much logistical obstacle., Diehl, meanwhile, lives only in one (Whitman) of the seven towns he seeks to win. Baker, with his statewide force and visibility, could harvest votes anywhere with more or less equal ease; for Diehl, who has never represented most of the seven towns and hasn’t Baker’s clout, it will not be automatic to run up the two to one (and more) wins that Baker achieved.

There remains, however, one huge weapon in Diehl’s arsenal : the gas tax indexing repeal. On the ballot a year ago, it carried every community in the District, even Brockton; District wide, the vote to repeal was huge. And Diehl was the locomotive of repeal, its face and its voice. If Diehl can successfully make his rigorous views on taxes the main issue, recent history suggests he can win the Special election by a clear margin. But can he ?

We will soon know.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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