^ Dan Rizzo, recently Revere’s Mayor : easily, of all the candidates, the most masterly command of the District’s major legsialtive issues

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During the past two weeks I have spoken to all six (6) candidates seeking the State Senate seat from which Anthony Petrucelli resigned about three weeks ago. What follows is my second look at an election that isn’t really an election but which will willy-nilly have an elected result.

If that sentence reads like a Mel Brooks absurdity, the resemblance is intentional. On what basis are the voters of our District to choose a new Senator from such a field, and in a party primary, no less ? How are the voters to distinguish between the candidates ? It’s hard enough for voters, busy with their won lives, to remember even the names of six, not one of which is familiar to the entire district. Imagine the percentage turnout on primary day, April 12th, given this lemon.

I will say again what I have said since day one of this campaign : a party primary is no platform for choosing an office as important as Senator. You need a general election, one on one, where two finalists can raise and debate actual issues. Can we please keep in mind that our Senator will be voting on legislation that actually affects us ? that he or she will be one of only 40 (forty) Senators statewide ? that he or she will be asked, also, to file and advocate for legislation arising from our District;’s unique need ? How can that debate happen with six faces vying for your attention ? It can’t, and that is why I decry this so-called election.

The six candidate, party primary platform also does the candidates disservice. At least one of the six would be — already is, when you speak to him or her (I’ll reveal who it is later)– a superb advocate for Governor Baker’s reforms to state (and party); but in a six candidate jumble, in which our district’s Republicans can’t vote and in which few “independents’ will care to, that advocacy gets kneecapped. Considering that Baker carried 27 of our District’s 46 precincts in his own election, not enabling an advocate among the six is a huge political failing.

What we get is a small campaign with small goals and small eyes.

Meanwhile, the out of District endorsements are flying. Do they matter ? I hope not.

That said, here’s how I evaluate the six candidates and their campaigns with primary day  nine weeks away :

1.Lydia Edwards. personable, smart, plenty of presence; lives in East Boston; highly regarded by the “social justice” community. I don’t see a heck of a lot of actual support, certainly not among the District’s big names, but as Bernie Sanders has shown, there are plenty of non-big names who can make an election difference.

2.Diana Hwang. she presents as the quintessential public relations professional, networker, and office job interviewer. Of Chinese family, she claims two precincts of the 46 — those in which Chinatown is the core — and not merely by ethnicity; she’s the founder of an Asian-American women’s Alliance. Hwang is seen as a “progressive,” but my impression — and her words — tell me that she is, of all the candidates, the most attuned to Governor Baker’s reforms and political culture. I wish she were running as an independent on May 10th; the District needs that, and it would maximize all of her gifts as speaker and presence. But she isn’t.

3.Steve Morabito. A young Revere City Councillor, he has a fairly good, if not authoritative, grasp of most of the District’s particular issues. He has a gentle demeanor that seems to work well; of all the six, he has by far the largest social media support, at least on my posts. He isn’t seen as a progressive, but my sense is that sort of voter is his likeliest support, along with his hometown strength. The only difficulty there is that he faces a very strong Revere competitor : the former Mayor.

4.Joe Boncore. He’s a Winthrop Housing Authority member and, from what I see, has solid support from voters of his town. Boncore also has a law office in East Boston and the support of some big names in the District’s central community. I do not know where else in this diverse District he can garner a whole lot of votes, but we will see. He has been reaching out to the North End (4 of 46 precincts). On the issues, Boncore — whom I interviewed first, before the campaign revved up — doesn’t yet express with the kind of authority, or boldness that i would like to see. That will likely change, because it has to.

5.State Representative Jay Livingstone : as the only current legislator in this contest, he has to be considered “investment grade.” He knows how legislation works, and he has strong support from all manner of activists from his part of the District. Unfortunately for Livingstone, his “part” lies on the District’s periphery; on “the other side of the harbor” from where he lives, Livingstone often looks lost. Clearly it never, ever occurred to him that he might someday need to grasp a political culture extremely different from what dominates his Beacon Hill and Downtown home ground. Livingstone is aware of his outsider status, however, and is moving to gain support from elected officials in Revere and Winthrop. In that, he is aided by plenty of funds and a campaign manager well attuned to campaigning from “the top down.” Can it work in a District to which Livingstone’s home ground is peripheral ? It might. (Disclosure : Livingstone’s campaign manager and I are sometimes campaign colleagues.)

6.Dan Rizzo. Until November of last year he was Revere’s Mayor. That he was outpolled narrowly (by an excellent young challenger, Brian Arrigo) does not detract from his mastery of the issues, most of which he has already worked with during his term as Revere’s executive. Indeed : of all the six candidates, Rizzo has shown me by far the greatest command of our District’s issues. Mastery is not too strong a word.

This is also his second attempt to win our Senate seat. He ran in 2007 but lost to Anthony Petrucelli by about 8 to 5.

The no-casino people excoriate Rizzo as the man who “wanted to shove a casino down our throats.” He does have that negative to face, but in a six-way contest, it’s hard for any “negative” to derail a candidacy as commanding as Rizzo’s. He does have to contend with losing Revere votes to Morabito — maybe a lot of Revere votes — but if issues mastery is what you want in a Senator, Rizzo is definitely your guy. I suspect that a strong cohort of voters will make that choice on April 12th.

Whoever wins will have immediately to run again in November., I hope that in that election there will be a candidate who can take command of a much, much larger turnout of voters than the factional finick likely to cast a ballot on April 12th.

I’ll take another look at this race in about three weeks — sooner if anything significant to it breaks upon us.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





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