#MAGOV : A GOOD TWO WEEKS FOR CHARLIE BAKER — AND JULIETTE KAYYEM

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^ spark and height : Karyn Polito joins Team Charlie Baker and announces her support for marriage equality

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From December’s start to now, Republican favorite Charlie Baker has put his campaign into solid definition on many fronts. First, he chose a running mate, former State Representative Karyn Polito, who ran a strong State-wide race for Treasurer in 2010 and has as much charisma as any Republican in the state. A high point of their alliance, to all Massachusetts voters of good will, was Polito discarding her anti-gay rights past and joining Baker’s long-standing support for marriage equality. Second, he released a Homelessness Alleviation Plan that actually addresses the issue, in a beneficial manner completely unlike the contempt that we’ve become so used to hearing from Republicans these past six years, a plan that none of Baker’s Democratic rivals will surpass — they’ll be hard-pressed to equal it. Third, Baker almost raised more money, in this period, than his five Democratic rivals combined.

Baker and Polito announced their ticket allliance on December 3rd. Last night they held a campaign Kick-Off fund-raiser at Coral Seafood on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. (After which they campaigned along the street’s “restaurant row.”) Polito has added plenty of spark to the Baker brand. It made last night’s event worth the time. Before she and her entourage of young, almost trendy supporters entered the room, the average age of the Baker donors was easily 60. It was — to this Boston-based observer — an almost defiantly unhip group of flattops, toupees, and 1970s sideburns. Nor was there much excitement; the mood of the 150 donors was cardboard flavorless. Then Polito stepped into the room, radiant face, televisably sleek, a “great to see you” outreach, and — yes — excitement. She changed the mood from cardboard to glossy brochure.

The Boston Globe notes that Baker’s fund-raising falls way short of the donations amde to him in 2009, as he was preparing a 2010 run for Governor. But that’s not the right comparison. He was then running against incumbent Deval Patrick. This time the office of Governor is open. In 2009, Baker’s name wasn’t well-known; today it is. The measure of Baker’s success now is his five Democratic rivals. Against them, he is showing strong. Let’s look at the December 1st through 19th receipt numbers reported to the state’s Office of campaign finance, as of 9.30 this morning, December 20 :

Charlie Baker : 203,290.69
Steve Grossman : 106,554.00
Martha Coakley : 88,298.73
Donald Berwick : 72,428.35
Juliette Kayyem : 5,522.04 (receipts 12/15-19 not reported yet)
Joe Avellone : 9,329.11

Several of the Democrats have already filed full bank reports for the December 1st through 15th period. Here are the numbers :

Candidate            Begin Balance Receipts Expenses End balance

Martha Coakley 285,272.65 83,073.73 59,635.73 306,711.13
Donald Berwick 155,521.08 52,973.35 59,266.40 149,237.93
Juliette Kayyem 222,717.32 5,522.04 77,627.56 150,611.80

The Juliette Kayyem receipt number surely misleads. During this same time she has pressed a social media and meet and greet campaign second to none; it has boosted her social media presence enormously — far larger a boost than for all her rivals combined. Her twitter following has gained + 2,553 since November 10th when I first checked. No rival comes close. She’s doing more voter outreach than them all — campaigning almost like somebody running for Boston Mayor. Yes, that thorough and up-close. I am impressed.

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^ Juliette Kayyem at La Semana Television

It would surprise not to see Kayyem post a noteworthy fund-raising number in her December 31 or January 15th report. Like Baker, she has released action plans — more of them than Baker so far. We seem to have entered the campaign’s Policy Plan season; every one of the six chief contenders — except Martha Coakley, who is still working her Attorney General agenda as a kind of Governor rehearsal — is releasing Policy plans on everything from Green Environment to Health care costs to criminal justice reform, immigrants’ rights, and women’s health.

The feeling in Berwick’s plans parallels that in Charlie Baker’s Homelessness alleviation paper — maybe because both men come from the health care field. It would greatly uplift the political morale of Massachusetts to see the two of them become the campaign’s finalists. But Berwick has had less success with voters than Kayyem, and he has also fallen into the no-casino hole. Kayyem has avoided cul-de-sac issues and focused herself on the main chance. a final between her and Baker would be a classic policy battle : who has broader capability and a stronger resume predicting success ? Kayyem versus Baker might even rise above the polarized mess that partisan Washington has put upon us. Both candidates are solid reformers who believe that government should benefit people.

What, then, of Steve Grossman and Martha Coakley, presumed to be the two strongest Democrats ? They are that — for now. Grossman has run a laid-back campaign, an almost State of Maine nonchalance. Yet he has by far the most money on hand — I await his December 15th Bank report — and, as state Treasurer, has state-wide connect and name recognition. One woners if his campaign’s low heat is an intentional stance ; that he feels that after so much over-passioned politics, voters of Massachusetts would welcome a candidate who doesn’t stoke fires, who approaches governance with patience, not hurry. On the other hand, as reported, most of Grossman’s fundraising has come from interests doing business with the state. That’s a lazy way to fundraise, and it invites questions about Grossman’s independence. Would Grossman, as baker’s opponent, fall back upon Democrat versus Republican rather than address the State’s actual issues ? It could be.

And now for Martha Coakley. The polls say that she is the clear Democratic favorite. I doubt that will be true after February caucus month. Her fund-raising falls short. She’s running on Attorney General issues. She continues to be the wan campaigner who lost that now legendary 2009 US Senator campaign to then barely known Scott Brown. No activist has forgotten that campaign. It’s one thing to be laid back like Grossman; it’s another to be flat and cliche, words that define Coakley as a campaigner.

In any case, December so far belongs to Charlie Baker and Juliette Kayyem. With the Holiday period now beginning, the rest of December is likely to stay that way.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MELEE IN MASSACHUSETTS : RUNNING THE NUMBERS ON NOV 10TH

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^ peopling and good-timing : Charlie Baker meting and greeting at the Water Street Cafe in Plymouth.

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As in all elections, money and people determine the race to choose Massachusetts’ next Governor. Even this early one can count some of each. That is what I shall be doing in today’s report and as often henceforth as the state of the race requires from me. So what do the numbers tell us at 11 : 30 AM on 11/10/13 ?

People ——-

Charlie Baker : 4004 twitter followers
32,056 Facebook Public Figure followers
Martha Coakley : 12,200 twitter followers
18,968 Facebook Public Figure Followers
Steve Grossman : 6,770 twitter followers
no facebook public figure page as yet
Juliette Kayyem : 4,244 twitter followers
1,161 facebook public figure followers
Donald Berwick : 1,876 twitter followers
1,799 facebook public figure followers
Joe Avellone : 336 twitter followers
no facebook public figure page as yet

Money —–

Charlie Baker : 107,643.62 cash on hand as of 10/01/13
261,370.36 receipts for the month
185,880.50 expenditures
203,133.48 cash balance on 10/31/13

Steve Grossman : 709,324.65 cash on hand as of 10/01/13
163,405.00 receipts for the month
119,034.42 expenditures
773,695.23 cash balance on 10/31/13

Martha Coakley : 283,192.95 cash on hand on 10/01/13
88,486.88 receipts for the month
59,141.22 expenditures
303,538.41 cash on hand on 10/31/13

Juliette Kayyem : 202,527.92 cash on hand on 10/01/13
95,572.46 receipts for the month
40,795.36 expenditures
257,305.02 cash on hand on 10/31/13

Donald Berwick : 264,649.83 cash on hand on 10/01/13
33,053.10 receipts for the month
102,542.03 expenditures
195,161.90 cash on hand on 10/31/13

Joseph Avellone : 121,494.72 cash on hand on 10/01/13
19,675.37 receipts for the month
39,294.95 expenditures
101,875.14 cash on hand on 10/31/13

These numbers all look small when one considers that it took $ 80 million to elect a United states Senator for Massachusetts in 2012. Even to elect a Boston Mayor, over $ 7 million was raised and spent. As I see it, two problems pressure all of these candidates :

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^ 775,693.25 in the bank — now some people too : candidate Steve Grossman (at the Depot Diner in Peabody with Mayor Bettencourt and the Diner’s owner)

1. five (5) noggins seek the Democratic Party nomination. The winner even of that battle faces a serious GOP opponent in a state in which four of the last five governors have been Republican (Weld, Cellucci, Swift, Romney). That’s long odds for donors with shekels to sprinkle.

2. Charlie Baker so far has no challenger for the GOP nomination, but his “strong favorite” status seems grievously imperiled by the toxic state of the Republican brand among Massachusetts voters and by the powerful tilt toward poisonous policies even among Massachusetts’s GOP primary voters.

DeLeo the Speaker

^ Robert DeLeo, Speaker of the House…. and the REAL Governor of Massachusetts

And hanging over all the hopefuls is the knowledge that Massachusetts is governed — even dictated to — by the Speaker of the House. Time and time again we have seen this. The Governor can want a piece of legislation more seriously than a heart attack ; it doesn’t matter a whit unless the Speaker wants it too. If he doesn’t, the Governor can just whistle Dixie.

The Speaker has this power because, by the rules of the house, he appoints all committee chairmen and all committee members. Until these rules are changed — which they never will be — the Speaker rules. Indeed, one wonders why people even bother running for Governor ? True, the position has a great deal of prestige attached to it. That plus the bully pulpit, a lot of voter comfort, and some public policy feel-good and perhaps a shot at becoming the POTUS. But heck, the future POTUS (ha !) can’t even get his judicial nominees appointed without sweet-bunning a majority of the Governor’s Council. Good luck with that, in an era when patronage jobs can’t be given without earning a slam column from the likes of Howie Carr.

Oh wait… the Governor does appoint cabinet members — worthy men and women, some of them my friends — to operate whatever the Speaker allows them. He or she also has power to commute sentences or award pardons : but the present Gov and his precdessor almost never have done so. What good is a power unusued ?

Of course our would-be US President DOES run the state Police. Which means that a wise governor keeps the “staties” from harrassing immigrants, whereas a Gov “severely conserative” can’t wait to eat immigrants for breakfast. I suppose that that does matter. But is it worth the tens of millions of good funds that will likely be spent to elect a Goverbor decent to or devouring of immigrants ?

It was fun to cover the Boston Mayor election. A Boston Mayor wields actual poweer — a LOT of power. The Governor wields a limp biscuit. Oh what joy this coming year is gonna be…not.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

WHO WILL BE THE NEXT MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR ?

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Front runner : the GOP’s Charlie Baker

The election won’t take place until November of NEXT year. Yet already the big political talk state-wide is, “who will be our next Governor ?” As Deval Patrick is not, after two terms, running for re-election, the question matters.

There is no obvious successor. Many fit the role, but none dominates it. For the Democrats, Attorney General Martha Coakley looks most formidable; but State Treasurer Steve Grossman — who announced his candidacy yesterday — rates as supportable as well, and so also, on his resume alone, does Donald S. Berwick, a medical doctor best known as President Obama’s administrator of Medicare and Medicaid services.

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leading Democrat : attorney General Martha Coakley

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also strong : State Treasurer Steve Grossman

You would suppose that the presence of three such star-quality candidates would preclude the availability of a fourth: but you would be wrong. A second Obama administration official, Juliette Kayyem, is said to be preparing her candidacy. Kayyem appeals to those who believe that intellectual rulers should rule. She worked in the sardonically named “Department of Homeland Security,” lectures at Harvard University and writes op-eds for the Boston Globe. Kayyem is an all-in supporter of the secret surveillance state. Sadly, this is what the Democratic Party, once the courageous tribune of the rights of ordinary people, has just about become in paranoid America, 2013.

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Governor Snoop ? Democrat Juliette Kayyem is thinking about it.

Of course Kayyem might not actually declare. We hope she does not. State government has already become an enemy to many of the basic rights of ordinary people : think the recent and ongoing attack upon people receiving EBT benefits. Ponder the opposition to the Governor’s “transpo” bill and its new taxes, money needed if the state is to maintain, even improve, public transit, by which many ordinary Massachusetts people get to work. The last thing that ordinary Massachusetts citizens need right now is a governor trained in secret snooping.

Of all the Democrats likely to run, Martha Coakley has the best record of advocating for ordinary people. Her long campaign against the mortgage banks and their predatory, deceptive, and downright self-seeking lending and foreclosure practices deserves the congratulations of us all. Yet even Coakley has a tainted past. What Coakley watcher can forget how ruthlessly and unforgivingly she, as Middlesex District attorney, pursued the Fells Acres, day care providing Amirault Family back in the 1980s and for two decades thereafter ?

Despite which, Coakley looks to be the Democrats’ top gun, and that perception is currently well deserved.

Which brings us to the Massachusetts Republican Party. Since the local GOP has provided four of our last five governors — Weld, Cellucci, Swift, Romney — you might expect the GOP nominee to be the favorite to win in 2014. We think so too. Quite unlike the national party’s decline in civic morality and policy intelligence, the Massachusetts GOP features a long bench of A-list candidates, most of them progressive on every civil rights issue and some of them progressive even on economic agendas. Do not be misled by the dullness — except for Dan Winslow — of the GOP’s recent US Senate campaign. For the governorship, our local GOP has plenty to cheer about.

First up is Charlie Baker, an master administrator who ran in 2010 and would probably have won, had his campaign handled more deftly the presence of a strong third candidate. Baker is almost sure to run again.

It is thought that if he does not, former Senator Scott Brown will run. Brown is low-key, personable and still very much liked. He knows Beacon Hill well, having served in the legislature for ten years. The last State Senator to be elected Governor in his own right, the late Paul Cellucci, was an effective leader indeed.

(NOTE : Jane Swift had been a State Senator prior to becoming Lieutenant Governor. She succeeded to the Governorship when Cellucci was appointed Ambassador to Canada.)

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will he run ? Former Senator Scott Brown

Mary Z. Connaughton, who ran for state Auditor in 2010 and lost by one percentage point, might run if neither Baker nor Brown does so. She is an excellent campaigner and would be a superb candidate if she moves away from her retrograde views on social and civil rights issues.

Also possible candidates are Dan Winslow, by far the sharpest — and most under-funded — of the recent US Senate hopefuls, and Rich Tisei, a committed progressive, 16-year State Senator who lost a 2012 race for Congress by only 1,000 votes.

Clearly the Massachusetts GOP offers our citizens what a major political party should : credible candidates who stand for progressive policies beneficial to the many, not just the few. At least one such GOP candidate will run; and given the strength of the Democrats’ Coakley and Grossman — Berwick too — it should be a very intense election, with state infrastructure and education spending the prime issue : issues about which the Massachusetts GOP — so unlike the GOP nationally — offers solutions well in keeping with our state’s regard for civil rights and for the needs of those on or near the economic bottom

Our Governor campaigns always are about solutions and, by election day, so intense. This one already is.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE  as of 1:45 P.M. 07/11/13 : yesterday we learned that State Senator Dan Wolf, founder of Cape Air and representing of the Cape Cod and Islands District, has announced for the Democratic Party’s Governor nomination. More details as we get them.