MAGOV14 : BERWICK AND GROSSMAN DOMINATE SKILLS FORUM; BAKER ABSENT

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^ the five, but no Charlie Baker at Boston Foundation’

s Skills Forum at Roxbury Community College …

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The big news about the Boston Foundation’s Skills Forum on Wednesday night at Roxbury Community College is that Charlie Baker wasn’t there.

Every time looked at the five candidates who were there, or listened to them answer a question, all i could think was that the 200 or so people in attendance weren’t going to find out what the candidate most likely to be our next Governor has to say to Boston’s Skills community.

Even though his name was never mentioned, Charlie Baker had to be on everyone’s mind.
All the more so as many of the five — Don Berwick, Evan Falchuk, Martha Coakley, Steve Grossman, and Jeff McCormack — gave answers sometimes informative, occasionally innovative, once in a while brilliant, but also often vague or off topic.

Questions were asked by Forum moderator Peter howe and by some who he called “real people” : audience people, including young graduates, business hopefuls, and owners of growing start-ups, many of them immigrants.

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^ Agnes Young of new tech firm Equitron Inc., asks question

Don Berwick hit the evening’s home run when, in answer to a question posed to all, “what was your first job and what did you learn from it,” he said “I was a waiter at a summer resort in my home town, and I will never forget how hard that work was. Which is why I support a living wage !” Much applause ensured, the event’s loudest.

Still, Steve Grossman, who is never vague and rarely jejune, produced a much more detailed internship proposal — paid internships, half from business and half by the state — than Berwick’s generality answer.

Grossman also attacked Martha Coakley for her support of secure communities and her refusal to endorse driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants — ‘it’;s a public safety issue,’ Grossman insisted — and thereby evoked from the usually vague Coakley a pointed, feisty response : “Steve, you insist on misrepresenting my record 1 Yes, I supported secure communities at first, as did Mayor Menino. It then seemed like a good idea. Since then, we learned that it wasn’t, and i withdrew my support. as for driver’s licenses, we need to co-ordinate that with the Federal government. i am already looking into that.”

I fully expect to hear more clashes between Grossman and Coakley as Primary day approaches. We also now know that Coakley is fully capable of, and quite ready to, defend her positions, whether or not we agree with her.

Les dramatic, but informative, was independent candidate Jeff McCormack, who gave a business start-p executives’ answers to many questions. Being a governor is by no means the same as steering a start-up business, but McCormack was right to suggest that the next governor apply performance measurement — what we usually call ‘evaluation” — to state administration. i suspect that Charlie Baker will do all of that and more.

Forum attendees also heard from Evan Falchuk, who seeks to create a third party in Massachusetts, although it’s not clear what a Falchuk party stands for other than being a third path. he said that we need to elect people who are actually committed to doing what they tell the voters they will do : easy to say, but complete;ly oblivious to the complexity of the political process. Falchuk also took a demagogic swipe at Charlie Baker (without naming him) that did lttle to enhance his alternative politics.

So where WAs Charlie Baker while all of this was going on at a Forum whose stated purpose was to promote job growth, business opportunity, and connectedness for young school graduates ? Out meeting voters, actually. He and running mate Karyn Polito attended two fund raiders, both on the North Shore, including one at Longboard, a Salem waterfront restaurant, hosted by Young Professionals of the North Shore.

Baker is concentrating a sizeable part of his campaign on the North Shore,. it’s his home base, and he is working it deeply and broadly. Carrying Essex County by a big margin is essential to his win strategy, and from what I have seen of it — quite a lot, actually — the plan is working.

Still, it would have been good to see him at a Forum. He has eschewed most of these. I wish he would change his tactic. He can handle all of his rivals and should do so face to face.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : IGNORE THE RHETORIC — THE 5 DEMOCRATS ARE VERY DIFFERENT

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^ confident enough to say what she is about : Juliette Kayyem (on right) at ProgressiveMass Forum

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There’s a tendency on the part of so-called “conservatives” to dismiss the five Democrats running for governor as “all on the left.” That’s no more the case than to say Charlie Baker is “on the right.”

Fact is, the five Democrats differ immensely, on policy priorities, in political smarts, job resume, issues positions, personal style. Granted that the differences among them were not as evident at campaign’s start many months ago; each has evolved.

At the ProgressiveMass Forum yesterday, four of the five — joined by independent Evan Falchuk — made clear their evolved candidacies :

Don Berwick speaks rapid-fire his campaign of advanced position papers without offering any indication of how he plans to get from paper to fact. I’m told it’s all on his website.

Martha Coakley coolly touts her work as Attorney General, fighting foreclosure abuses, a situation which she sees as still the biggest destabilizer of our State’s economy.

Steve Grossman reminds voters of long age of former governor Mike Dukakis : detailed answers to just about every question thrown at him, earnestly delivered, no issue too arcane to miss his sweeping attention, no progressive ideal new to his long record of model citizenship. At the Forum he even talked about 1968 and the early 1970s, to a room full of people born mostly after 1984.

Juliette Kayyem, a generation younger than her competitors, looks the stylish, even athletic, cocktail party head-turner she is and speaks the realism — how to we get from here to there ? — that her rivals either avoid altogether or deem no big problem. Her big issue is true to type : “better data management.”

Joe Avellone did not speak at this Forum, but I have seen him frequently of late, and he too has evolved. The self-effaced, former Wellesley selectman now talks of drug abuse, recovery, and re-entry — a huge issue in our state and appropriate for Avellone, who, like Don Berwick, is a doctor.

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^ the foreclosure crisis still hurts the state : so said \Martha Coakley yesterday

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^ evolving to the Grad Tax ; Steve Grossman

The day also made clear that some of the Democratic hopefuls have devolved. Grossman, for example, started the year as the candidate of job growth and infrastructure spending — reluctant to seek new revenue but not ruling it out. at the ProgressiveMass Forum he sounded less reluctant to ask for new revenue and, surprisingly, stated support for a graduated rate income tax ; an issue that only Berwick had up till then advocated. What other issues surprises might Grossman adduce before Primary day four months from now ?

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demagoguing in Salem : Dr. Don Berwick on Fairfield Street

As for Don Berwick, his revelation moment occurred before the forum, at a meet and greet in Salem, my home town. there, speaking to about twenty guests (including a friend of my Dad and Uncle), Berwick answered a question about how would he defeat Charlie Baker if he we nominated by tying Baker to the odious Republican party platform — which baker opposes top to bottom — and by calling him “an insurance executive.”

These were unfair attacks, and especially unworthy of a candidate who touts his lifetime of caring about people and attachment to a co-operative citizenship. Berwick knows very well that Baker (and running mate Karyn Polito) strongly support marriage equality and women’s health choice; knows very well that in 2010 Baker’s running mate was openly gay Richard Tisei, first sponsor of the state’s now enacted transgender civil rights law. Berwick also knows very well, he being a doctor, that the insurance firm that Baker was executive of was Harvard Pilgrim Health care, the state’s best provider.

There are plenty of real issues that Baker and Berwick disagree about. It was either campaign inexperience or a real chink in Berwick’s soul for him to play the demagogue as he did. this was devolution.

As I see it, yesterday was Juliette Kayyem’s day. Asked, at the ProgressiveMass Forum, about her work on interrogation policy, as a Homeland security advisor during the Bush presidency, she did not excuse or back off but defended her work as vital to national security in the context of 9/11. She also mentioned that her policy paper mirrored the anti-torture views of John McCain, whom — said she to the room full of Progressives — “is often good on these matters.”

She is right about that, of course. And said so.

That took guts. it took confidence. She must surely be one of the first candidates, if not the first, to mention John McCain in a positive way to a room of progressive Democrats. I always like it when candidates confront a room of skeptics by conceding nothing of who she is or is about.

One final point. On the issue perhaps most important of all, to a potential Governor, there has been no evolution at all. Asked the question “if progressive legislation is blocked by conservative forces in the legislature, what will you do ?” none of the four Democrats at the Forum had a good answer. All evaded the question — or answered a different question. Because to give the real deal would undercut their pretensions. The real governor of Massachusetts is the person whom no one in the entire room mentioned by name : Mr. “conservative forces in the legislature,” Speaker Robert DeLeo. A Democrat.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere