at least 400 people, largest crowd I’ve seen so far for anybody, rallied for Winthrop candidate Joe Boncore on Saturday night.
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With seven candidates seeking a State Senate seat that only one can win, and none of them the obvious choice, the campaign to choose a successor to Anthony Petrucelli has taken a long while to form even an outline of potential. This lack of shape accords with the illogical nature of the District itself. Onto an East Boston, North End, and Winthrop core, mappers in 2011 added Downtown, Revere, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, and — craziest of all — CambridgePort. Clearly these add-ons were put in place purely to meet the one man, one vote population standard.
Unfortunately for the re-districters, these add-on neighborhoods have refused to take the hint. Three of them have candidates in this race, and all said candidates have an opportunity to win in a small, activist-only vote divided seven ways. Every one of the seven has an activated following and a rationale for his or her election.
Equally unfortunate for the District’s voters, these rationales have little to do with issues or legislative competence and a lot to do with whose insiders are the most influential insiders. I’m no Trump or Sanders anti-establishment person, not at all; but I am uncomfortable with seeing an election decided by which clique of influentials defeats the other cliques of same. Elections should be decided by all the voters. (I say this every time I write about this race, I know; but it is still true !)
That said, the shape and potential of the seven candidacies are becoming clear at last. Let’s rank and assess the seven now, from least potent to most :
- Paul Rogers of East Boston. Nobody knows the issues better, and nobody is as well known as Paul in East Boston. But he has entered the race very very late, and as the contest’s “technology candidate” represents enormous potential almost entirely unrealized. Technology candidates generally are just beginning to find their way to connection and coalescence. And a lot of potential Rogers voters are already committed elsewhere.
- Lydia Edwards: major observers tell me that she and Diana Hwang are seeking the same young-professionals vote. I disagree. Edwards has mobilized an activist, protest base; Hwang has gathered a following more social than political, and closer to the tech-savvy, networking, civic sentiment than Edwards’s. Hwang voters also seem of a higher income level. Edwards is a very likeable, passionate supporter of her target voters : the District’s most dispossessed. I’m unpersuaded that that is a winning strategy, but I credit Lydia enormously for committing to the effort.
- Diana Hwang : she has raised plenty of campaign funds and has some “traditional voter” support. She also won the two Ward 5 Democratic committee votes that did not go to jay Livingstone, proving that she has power inside the doors. Early on, she already has support in Winthrop, Cambridge’s four precincts, and parts of East Boston. Still, it’s a stretch to see a candidate whose identity is bureaucratic networking overcome her more or less newcomer status to a District designed to elect a long-resident, “traditional” candidate. Nor has Hwang, as a Chinese-American, been helped at all by having Boston’s two most influential Chinese American politicals endorse other candidates.
- There are two Revere candidates: former Mayor Dan Rizzo and current City Councillor Steve Morabito. They could not be more different., Moarbito is young, Rizzo a mid-50-ish veteran of political wars. The two seem to be revisiting the recent Revere Mayor campaign, a grudge match between Rizzo and new Mayor Brian Arrigo, with an almost 50-50 result. But Rizzo has run for our Senate seat before and has longer connections than Morabito to the other parts of its old-line neighborhoods. I get the impression that Morabito, as he campaigns all across the District, may be greeted positively more often than committed to; meanwhile, Rizzo has an established support group able, probably, to call out its troops locally for one more battle. I seriously doubt it’ll be enough. I put Morabito 4th — but rising, Rizzo 3rd and falling.
- Joe Boncore. I had thought that he, like Morabito, would be a candidate well liked everywhere but committed to hardly anywhere. That first impression, he has disproved. Boncore has Winthrop almost to himself and has it well motivated. He also shows solid support in East Boston and grabbed a bit of Revere as well. Yesterday he announced being endorsed by Chinatown’s legendary political leader, “Uncle Frank” Chin — a major get, as Chin does not often back candidates he thinks will lose. Can Boncore now find similar support in the North End ? He is starting to do just that. If Boncore can make that happen in a big way, he will win it all.
- Jay Livingstone, State Representative from the Beacon Hill and Cambridge edge of the District has mounted an improbable candidacy that might very well work. He has the afore-mentioned eight precincts (out of 46 total) to himself, will surely capture votes from ChinaTown and Downtown (a very large voting precinct), seems likely to win like-minded voters in the North End, and has gained toe-holds of support in Revere, Winthrop, even East Boston. His chief challenge is turnout. His base precincts of very high-income aren’t much attuned to local elections — $ 200 to $ 500 k earners seldom are; in our turf-passionate District, Livingstone definitely comes from the wrong real estate. Still, his base is his alone — as he proved at the recent Ward 5 Democratic Committee Forum. Jay has the legislative experience, and lots of campaign funds, and since day one he has played every move of this sport non-stop.
The above ranking is not the entire story. I still believe that the District was created to elect a candidate from its East Boston – Winthrop – North End core; of a traditionalist social class bent ; and the candidate closest to that concept is Joe Boncore. He has still to prove himself. That so many of the District’s wisest core-communities heads remain uncommitted with only seven weeks left tells me they are still not convinced.Same is true for me.
There is, however, some movement arising in our corner of District opinion. In a seven-way, small turnout primary, very influential leaders can decide, even dictate, the outcome. Things should become most interesting here in about two to three weeks.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere