#MAGOV : CAUCUSES BEGIN ; BAKER STILL LEADS ALL THE DEMOCRATS. BUT…

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^ Still leading the pack, thus reason to smile : Charlie Baker in Leominster

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Massachusetts people are moving to pick a new Governor. The Democratic caucuses begin in a few days. The GOP meetings have already started. As I see it today, February 2nd, Charlie Baker leads the pack. His bold move, last week, to support raising the minimum wage by way of Speaker DeLeo’s legislation, ensures its passage; none of the five Democrats has yet made the same pact. Baker also supports expanding the earned income credit for lower-wage workers. None of the Democrats has even, to my knowledge, mentioned this initiative. Big advantage for Baker.

So is the $ 1,014,906.36 that Baker reported raising last year, with more to come, much more.

In charge finally, Baker stumbled a bit when the question of seeking the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was put to the candidates. All of the Democtrats said that no, the death penalty is not OK for any defendant in Massachusetts; we have abolished it. This is true and principled. Baker’s response ? That he has long advocated the death penalty in very heinous crime situations. His statement seems a step backward for our boldly progressive state. And where do the Feds get their sudden death penalty willingness ? Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy ; he didn’t get a death peanlty. Is Tsarnaev more heinous ? Or do we simply live in miore barbarous times ? Certainly a great deal of outright barbarism unfolded here in Boston after the Marathon bombing. Who can forget the Antigone situation that arose over the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev ? It is not good, not at all, to see Baker play to the Creon mindset.

Advantage then to the five Democrats, as their party’s caucuses begin.

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^ heartfelt dedication to social justice : Dr. Don Berwick at a packed house party in West Roxbury yesterday

If yesterday’s Don Berwick houseparty on Chesbrough Road in West Roxbury was any indication of interest, the caucuses should be full-house. 75 locals crowded into every nook of the Chesbrough Road dwelling to hear the gentle, classy Dr. Berwick deliver his social justice speech and answer questions — most of them well informed. And Berwick isn’t even one of the two “majors.” Imagine how many are likely to caucus for Steve Grossman, our State Treasurer, or for Martha Coakley, now the Attorney General. Juliette Kayyem, too, with her personal charisma — 9,749 twitter followers as I write this — is sure to draw many to the hundreds of Democratic town and ward (each ward of a city holds its own) caucuses taking place between next weekend and March 2nd, the last day on which they can occur. So yes, for the five Democrats — Joe Avellone is the one not mentioned above — it’s now crunch time. Any candidate who can’t secure 900 pledged delegates — 15 percent of the total who will vote at the Democratic convention — won’t get his or her name printed on the Democratic Primary ballot.

We won’t know who has done that and who hasn’t until probably mid-March, when the Democratic State Committee tallies the results. But we can assess the five with reasonable objectivity by looking at their fund-raising. (Charlie Baker has yet to report January numbers.) Since January 15th, the day on which I last looked, this is how the five’s fund-raising tallies up :

Martha Coakley 168,951.23
Steve Grossman 153,695.00
Juliette Kayyem 84,679.20
Donald Berwick 50,260.00
Joe Avellone        36,365.64
Total Funds raised by the five —- 493,950.87
Per cent of total :
Coakley —– approx 34 %
Grossman — approx 31 %
Kayyem —– approx 17 %
Berwick —– approx 11 %
Avellone —- approx 7 %

Fund-raising isn’t everything, of course. But in MA, each donor is limited to $ 500 per candidate per year. Thus the list above represents a lot of people. The caucus-goers choices aren’t likely to differ radically from the donors’ picks. In any rate, it’s my working hypothesis as to who — as of today — will make the “15 % cut” and who won’t.

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^ charisma and a progressive smile gets Juliette kayyem lots of attention — and probably a spot on the Primary ballot…..

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^ or maybe it gets Kayyem second place on a Steve Grossman ticket ? we will see.

For Donald Berwick, who by my analysis falls short, it’s a good thing that the caucus process lasts for a month. He can step up his game in that time — probably needs to. Juliette Kayyem can’t rest calm, either, sitting at 17 % of the total. But then what ? Coakley and Grossman clearly dominate — no surprise there — which means that Kayyem may want to think about taking the Lieutenant Governor position on a Steve Grossman ticket — if offered.

It would be a very strong Democratic pairing. It represents about 50 % of the Democratic convention. The stars are beginning to align.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#MAGOV : A SURGE OF ROMEOS FOR JULIETTE

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^ much love for Juliette : Kayyem speaks to Democratic activists in Barnstable last Sunday

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In the parlance of now, there is much love afoot for Juliette Kayyem, one of five Democrats exerting to be that party’s nominee for Governor of Massachusetts. At 10.24 AM on this December 13, 2013 morning, Kayyem has gained 1,089 twitter followers since I first checked the numbers on November 10th. No rival compares. Don Berwick has added 374; Steve Grossman, 194; Martha Coakley, about 600; Joe Avellone, 67. (On the Republican side, Charlie Baker has added 307 followers, while Tea Party Mark Fisher’s newly posted twitter account has 36 followers.)

Kayyem’s total twitter following stands at 5,321 ; about 1600 behind Grossman’s and way behind Coakley’s 12,400 ; but she already tops Baker’s 4,311 and Berwick’s 2,203. As for her presence on facebook, Kayyem trails the “big’ names, yes ; Charlie baker has 32,317 “Likes”; Martha Coakley, 19,193. But Kayyem’s 3,469 isn’t far from Steve Grossman’s 5,520 and leads both Don Berwick’s 2,011 and Mark Fisher’s 1,367. Adding these numbers up, Kayyem has risen to the top of the “second tier” already. So what is going on, that has produced slo many Romeos for this Juliette on our State’s 2014 political scene ?

Charisma first. You need only look at her pictures to see that she connects to people. She leans forward to them, not back away or ramrod straight. She’s casual, even slangy, gets the humor on the net and gives it back. She casts better as the candidate of “now” than any of her rivals — only Charlie Baker has a similar degree of “now”-ness.

Second, her issues and how she addresses them. Of course no one should expect a candidate to accomplish, if elected, what he or she proposes in a campaign ; government isn’t that simple (witness Mayor-elect Marty Walsh’s back-walking his “overhaul the BRA” proposals). But you can tell a lot about how a candidate will approach the office he or she seeks by the temper and content of his or her campaign proposals. Here’s what Kayyem’s website says about “reforming the Criminal justice system” — as pressing a need as there is in State governance right now :

Massachusetts cannot continue to imprison more and more of our citizens at an ever increasing cost. This trend is not fiscally sustainable, it often doesn’t make sense from a law enforcement perspective, and it does not reflect the kind of Massachusetts we want to be. Juliette will make sure that our criminal justice system becomes more evidence based and less wasteful; more rehabilitative and less purely punitive; and, perhaps most importantly, more focused on integrating those who have served their time back into society as productive citizens rather than ignoring their problems once they leave a correctional facility. In order for the Commonwealth to seize the opportunities of the future and build inclusive and productive communities, we must do better when it comes to our criminal justice system.”

Then there’s health care, a huge issue nationally and thus one that we in Massachusetts also talk about, even though for us universal health care has been a given for almost a decade. Kayyem says this :

Massachusetts is a national leader in ensuring that all residents have access to quality, affordable healthcare. As governor, Juliette will work to: Continue to bring technological advancements to Massachusetts’ health care system that will bring the cost of health care down while improving service; and Reduce health disparities in the Bay State’s underprivileged communities.”

Note that last sentence. How many candidates these days for high office ever talk about the difficulties faced by people living in poverty ?

Don Berwick, who is a doctor, confronts the health needs of poor people at least as directly as Kayyem; on other issues of fairness and civil rights he stands, ahead of what Kayyem has published so far. But from the huge love now being accorded Kayyem online — and the immense schedule of meet and greet events with activists that she is pursuing, all of them drawing large crowds — one has to conclude that in person, Kayyem persuades that she — the person she is — will be most able, as Governor, to do what she talks of. One need only ask the large crowds who have recently met her up close in Melrose, Brewster, Franklin, Barnstable, Worcester, and, especially, at the “JPProgressives’ candidates’ night at Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica plain.

Or perhaps it’s the “Elizabeth Warren” effect ? Until recently, Massachusetts voters had hardly ever elected a woman to high office. Then came Senator Warren, and now Congresswoman Katherine Clark — the State’s third female Congress member. Massachusetts Democrats, at least, are acting like converts do : once seeing the light, they become more than merely enlightened; they become apostles. It helps that, in Kayyem, they have a candidate with a resume and education approaching Warren’s. Especially is Kayyem the object of a ton of Romeos in contrast to the dry and reticent Martha Coakley, the memory of whose befuddled 2009 US Senate campaign has hardly dimmed at all and whose current campaign for Governor hasn’t generated much better.

If you haven’t yet paid much attention to Juliette Kayyem — or to the race for Governor in general — it’s time now to do so. The Democratic party caucuses begin in less than two months. The Republican meetings follow soon after.

NEXT FOR #MAGOV : the mid-December OCPF fund-raising and expenses report

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#MAGOV : FRAMING THE ISSUES FOR CAUCUS DAY

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^ Don Berwick : the “governor” as issues referendum

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The race for Governor of Massachusetts continues to feel less than grave. We all know that the REAL Governor is Robert DeLeo, Speaker of the General Court (as our legislature is called). Yet the office which we call “Governor” is filled by a vote of all the people, as that of Speaker is not; and so even if all the people’s Governor isn’t in fact a governor, he or she still embodies what we the people want leadership on. Thus choosing a “governor” is a kind of referendum, not much different from the several referenda that look likely to be put on our state’s 2014 ballot, except that the “governor referendum” is not one-issue specific but an entire menu of issues.

So, what are the issues menus on offer from each of the six servitors ?

1. Martha Coakley has yet to tell us what she will do as “governor” that she isn’t now doing as our — admittedly very effective — Attorney General. Perhaps her issues menu is “consumer protection” ?

2. Steve Grossman is just beginning to talk issues. His menu appears — so far — to be “business recruitment, lots of fund raising, and a higher minimum wage.” All good, but much more is likely coming.

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^ charisma to spare : Juliette Kayyem

3. Juliette Kayyem has drawn enthusiastic crowds of Democratic activists and certainly is the charisma champion of the field. It’s a little less clear what her issues menu is. Everybody knows that she was an NSA bureaucrat and wrote expertly — albeit in prose as dry as a month old egg sandwich — about national security issues for the Boston Globe. Who would have guessed that such a sere pen would, in person, exude such fire and warmth ? Perhaps that’s her menu : passion and charm.

4. Donald M. Berwick (see photo above) has, so far, put forth the most inspiring menu : health care as a human right, complete with a cost-control and care delivery plan; business recruitment and a higher minimum wage; and bold leadership on all civil rights issues. He seems to grasp, better than any of his rivals, that the office of “governor” is the issues referendum that I see in it. The activists seem to be responding; of late, Berwick’s twitter follower numbers have surged.

5. Joe Avellone says all the right things. his issues menu parallels Berwick’s although with less talk about health care (which is strange : Berwick is an MD, but so is Avellone). Still, Avellone draws smaller crowds and is — and seen as — a huge underdog. Running state-wide for “governor” is a difficult course for anyone as little known as Avellone, whose gentlemanly demeanor only adds to his difficulties arousing serious attention.

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^ meeting & greeting : the new, charimatic Charlie baker ; still the man to beat

6. Charlie Baker : his menu we already know from 2010 — or do we ? Unlike then, Baker is taking himself out to the people, doing meet and greets, just as Scott Brown did (and so doing, changed everything about Massachusetts GOP campaigns, which had tended to be press release and stand-out affairs merely, a soft touch of couch potato and hardly serious). Out and about — in Worcester County often — Baker stresses business recruitment (who isn’t ? But how about some innovation district initiatives as well ?), business confidence, and just a hint of education reform (surely we’ll see more of this from him). He’s also being Mr. Good Buddy, unlike the pissed-off persona he shopped in 2010. The change in demeanor is most welcome and seems to be catching fire. His twitter follower gains trail only Berwick’s and Kayyem’s.

The Democratic candidates are amassing issues rapidly; caucus day approaches. Hard to believe that caucuses will convene scarcely 120 days from now ! (According to the State’s Democratic party, they cannot take place later than March 2, 2014. For the Party Rule governing caucuses, follow this link : http://www.massdems.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/METHOD-2014_Proposed1.pdf ) Soon the issues roll-outs will give way to caucus commitments as candidates fight each other to secure the 15% of delegates needed in order to earn a spot on the printed Primary Day ballot at which the actual Democratic nominee will be chosen.

I will be covering this fight as it intensifies.

As with all Republican candidates, so outnumbered in Massachusetts by a host of Democratic hopefuls, Baker is running as if he and all of his Democratic rivals were part of the same selection slot. And they are. If the Republican candidate cannot outpoll all the Democratic hopefuls mano a mano, he won’t likely do so at the November election. Thus I am rating Baker on the same stage that I evaluate the five Democrats.

One big difference in quality between Baker and the rest : he has run for “governor’ already; they haven’t. He has tested the waters, against an incumbent no less. All the others have yet to prove anything. Most definitely do I include Martha Coakley in that assertion.

The way I see it right now, Baker is the favorite to take the people’s “issues referendum” into the State House and get the REAL Governor, Robert DeLeo, to listen to — us. I am not at all convinced that any of the five Democrats can capture DeLeo’s attention, interest, or concern.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere