^ Janet Mahon Vincze : a superb candidate who almost overcame two big campaign disadvantages. Read my analysis below.

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Yesterday I posted my first look at the big fight that Governor baker undertook, to obtain control of the Massachusetts Republicans state committee: a fight that he appeared to have won, but not as decisively as he should have. A Governor as popular as Baker should sweep through his own party’s executive committee. So why didn’t he ?

Before I answer that question, I want to repeat what I opined yesterday : that the Republican party’s state committee writes the party’s platform and so generates public policy consequences for all of us, no matter what our political enrollment. If this level of “inside game” interests you — I hope it does — please read on, as I itemize the reaons why his campaign fell short of the totality it sought.

1.Baker has only been Governor for 14 months. A campaign as difficult as this one takes a lot longer than 14 months to prepare. During most of those months, Baker has faced one state administrative challenge after another; he has hardly had time or space to think through the obstacles to a successful state committee take-over.

2.Recruiting candidates who could win — defeating committee people already in office — was a challenge that Baker barely met. In too many cases, he recruited people scarcely known, or not known at all except to his core team, to face an incumbent well known to the party activists : and it is party activists who care most about a purely party office like state committee.

3.Many of Baker’s candidates work for his administration. They were open to attack as a “hackarama,” and were thus attacked by the hucksters of talk radio, who, in this anti-government year, rendered Baker’s employee candidates unclean. Smart it was, of Baker’s opponents, to “pledge” not to take a job in his administration (as if he would ever offer one to them) knowing that thereby they risked nothing and gained plenty.

4.More than half the voters in the Republican primary at which the party’s state committee was elected were “independents,” not actual Republicans. Baker’s team could campaign to the Republicans; but which of the state’s 2,500,000 independent voters could his people campaign to ? There was no way at all of knowing which of them would take a Republican ballot.

5.Given that more than half the actual GOP electorate was, in many committee districts, not actual GOP voters, it was especially important to recruit “known” names — preferably current office holders or recent candidates for State Senate — and from major towns or cities : because for many voters, a ballot for as invisible office as state committee  the candidate’s home town wins the math. Unfortunately, too many baker candidates were not “known” names; and many came from small communities, putting them at a big disadvantage.

6.Many Baker candidates did not grasp the paradoxical challenge of an office insignificant to the public but elected from an entire State Senate District. The race has to be run as if the candidate is running for State Senator itself – all the “independents” need to be campaigned to — and so voter ID, GOTV, mailings, advertising, and phone banking must all be done. Yet at the same time, special effort must be taken with the district’s GOP activists, who are few in number and usually quite unrepresentative of the vote as a whole. In a Senate District there might be 500 GOP town or city committee members. The endorsement of each really matters to a state committee election. A state committee candidate should think of these 500 or so activists the way a major office candidate thinks of donors : you must call each one, often, until they either say yes or no. That takes time away from campaigning to the 7500 to 25,000 voters who will cast actual ballots; and given the oddity of most GOP activists’ political views — not to mention their disconnect from the electorate at large — the time spent romancing them can work against the wider campaign.

7.Baker was not honest about why he was taking on this challenge. His campaign theme was “elect a team who will all work together for reform.” Great — but he never spelled out why those he sought to beat were not “working together” for said reforms. It was duck soup for his opponents to say that they were the “real reformers,” or to pledge fealty to politics treasured by most GOP voters :” the Second Amendment” and all the “social issues.” Bringing in the Second Amendment was genius. It bolstered the opposition’s claim that in addition to being the “real reformers,” they were also the “liberty” team. Given the blandness of the Baker theme, the opposition looked to many voters as if they, not Baker, were the actual party builders. Of course everybody involved knew that Baker undertook this effort for very ideological reasons : removing committee people responsible for writing the party’s right wing, 2014 platform that embarrassed Baker’s election. Baker should have asked voters to stand with him on the issues that he espouses. He chose not to.

Nonetheless, Baker did manage to elect a majority of stated committee members. Of his 52 candidates, 29 or 30 won, 22 lost. It should have been much more decisive. I’ll look at three races that should not have been lost :

Janet Mahon Vincze. Vincze faced two huge disadvantages. First, she hails from a small Middlesex County town, North Reading, in a very large District almost all of which is in Essex County. Second, her opponent, Angela Quinn Hudak, is the wife of the man who in 2010 ran for Congress in every town in the District and thus was a very well known name. Vincze was a superb candidate (disclosure ; she is a treasured friend of mine) who listened to me when I told her of the obstacles she faced. She campaigned tirelessly and drew enormous activist support and almost won, losing by 372 votes out of 21,000 cast. This was a superb result; but could not Baker find a fine candidate from the Essex County core, and one who had run for office before and had a name well recognized ? Vincze has a big future in state politics if she wants it; but this was the wrong race to send her into.

Ed McGrath should never have come even close to losing his state committee seat (based in Framingham, and Ashland) to the opponent who beat him, a man from a small town, where Framimngham cast over 4000 GOP votes; an opponent loathed in party circles and whose negative campaign lived up to that loathing. But McGrath’s goose was cooked when he was appointed to high office on a state administrative board and was thus nailed in the “hackarama” attack wielded by right wing talk radio; and he faced, in Marty Lamb, an opponent tireless in his efforts and not shy about decrying him as such.

David D’Arcangelo , a Malden City Councillor and state committee challenger, suffered the same fate as McGrath, at the hands of an opponent whose campaign literature boasted how he would not accept a job in the administration and how he was the “real. reformer” who would be “responsible only to the District’s Republican voters.” No matter that it is vital for GOP activists to accept jobs working for our GOP Governor — if not us, then who ? Robert Aufiero never had to answer that question, because the Baker campaign never explained why working in his administration is a plus for a GOP activist, not a detriment. It was also false of Aufiero to define his responsibility as being only to GOP voters. A state committee member owes a duty to ALL the voters, to recruit great candidates and give them a platform to run on that they can win with., But Aufiero was never called  out.

That was the bad news. There is also good news :

Where big names were recruited, and “hackarama” could not be pinned on them; where they came from significantly sized communities; and where they understo0od the dimensions, large and tiny, of a state committee race, Baker’s candidates mostly were elected. He now owns a clear majority of the committee membership and can rewrite the bad platform — and elect a new national committeewoman, one who is not a paid employee of a group that rejects marriage equality, opposes women’s reproductive rights, and denies the existence of transgender people.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere






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