Two days ago, the six-candidate contest to elect a new State Senator in Boston’s core District suddenly became a seven-way struggle, as East Boston’s Paul Rogers took up arms. Thus members of Ward 5’s democratic committee became the first group in the District to listen to seven, not six, hopefuls.
Not surprisingly, committee member Jay Livingstone was endorsed by a vote of 24 to 2. More about this later.
Boston’s Ward 5 includes Beacon Hill, the Back bay, the Fenway, and Bay Village. It boasts the state’s highest priced homes. Four of its 13 precincts fall inside the Senate District, yet every committee member was allowed to vote to endorse. That was odd; but these are party matters, and the Democratic party’s rules probably authorize such process.
The candidates’ presentation unsettled me. Only two discussed actual issues : Lydia Edwards, who itemized her “progressive” priorities, and Jay Livingstone, who talked about transportation funding. Others told their life histories — their resumes. Unacceptable ! If you seek to be a legislator, you owe it to voters to tell them what legislation you will prioritize and what position on it you intend to take. The voters are electing you to do a very specific job; tell them what you will do. At the very least, it shows that you know the job you seek and that you are serious about the people’s legislative business. Save the resume for your palm card.
I was especially surprised to see former Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo do the life resume routine. No one in this race has more mastery of the issues affecting our District. Why did he not speak of a few at the Ward 5 Forum ?
The same was true of Steve Morabito, Diana Hwang — who received the two non-Livingstone endorsement votes — and Paul Rogers. Joe Boncore did mention charter schools, but ducked the cap lift legislation and referendum with a general comment about how all schools need to be good.
A candidate must impart to the voters an opportunity for them to have confidence in him or her ! It is better even to have the voter disagree, but at least feel fairly certain about you, than to leave him or her puzzled about what you have in mind. State Senators represent about 140,000 people. That’s a lot of people to bewilder.
Some of these candidates have “consultants” advising them. It doesn’t say much for the expertise of “consultants” to see what they’re so far producing in this dispiriting contest. You can do all the voter-filing that $$$$ will buy you, and micro-target six dozen groups of voters every minute, but if you aren’t fully confident of your candidacy and what it means, you are wasting your money.
The Governor has filed plenty of legislation now before the Senate. The voters might like to know how the seven feel about baker’s opioid bill, his energy proposal (renewed yesterday), his municipal reform bill, his continuing MBTA reforms,; and yes, his charter cap lift legislation. From what happened last night, I doubt we will hear any of it except probably from Jay Livingstone.
On that score alone, Livingstone becomes the lead candidate despite qualms the rest of our District rightly feels about giving the seat to a resident of its least characteristic neighborhood.
The lack of address given to Baker’s legislation by any of the candidates seems especially obtuse given that in his 2014 campaign, Baker won 27 of the District’s 46 precincts, including the home precincts of all but two of the seven Senate seekers. The voters of our District want what the Governor advocates. The seven Senate seekers have a duty to tell us where they stand.
Unfortunately at least five of them — Livingstone and Edwards have the right approach — may worry that vested interests, whose strangle hold on state administration the Governor is trying to loosen, may loom larger, in a small-vote, party primary than they would in a general election, and thus are loathe to stir stuff up. This is a serious problem in Massachusetts, where three-quarters of the legislature is elected in low-turnout party primaries, in which vested interests overweigh their actual numbers. We aren’t likely to reform state-wide this fundamental of Massachusetts politics any time soon, but in our own District, we should resolve never again to permit the Senate seat to be decided in a primary rather than in a final, one on one election in which major issues cannot be avoided or fluffed by resume happy talk.
Meanwhile, Jay Livingstone, already a State Representative, and girded with campaign dollars, looks more and more the confident leader of this pack.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere