#MAGOV : AS THE CAUCUSES APPROACH, WHO’S HOT AND WHO’S NOT ?

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Today, January 11th, Democratic governor hopeful Don Berwick tours the West. His day begins in Athol, moves to Orange, then over the mountains to Williamstown; the afternoon and evening find him in Springfield, Chicopee, and Palmer. That is a lot of driving, but how else is a statewide candidate to reach out to activists spread across three counties that, combined, comprise about 20 % of Massachusetts’s population ? You can’t helicopter it; trains don ‘t carry people any more; taking the bus seems just a bit wack. So you drive. Berwick has been driving a lot lately. Cape Cod has seen him quite often, the Merrimack valley, even Tea party-laden Worcester County. Tireless he is, this medical man who has a bedside physician’s touch for people he meets.

Peripatetics alone should earn Berwick a high place in the list of hot political properties. Berwick has also attracted solid money this month : $ 62,849 since January 5th. Yet a fourth place man he seems. Attorney General Martha Coakley has twenty times the state-wide clout, as she wields the investigatory poewers of her office. State Treasurer Steve Grossman has the big bucks — don’t be fooled by his raising only $ 13,122.96 this past week; his mid-month report is likely to show a solid dollar haul.. Whoever you talk to, they’ll tell you that Grossman and Coakley own the top two spots in the Democratic part of the governor race. Then there’s Juliette Kayyem. She hasn’t raised as many shekels even as Berwick, much less Coakley or Grossman — though her last week’s $ 39,115.68 merits notice — but on social media she’s the champion of charisma — has more followers than anyone but the seasoned Coakley and, if current tends continue much, will soon pass her too. Kayyem is a physical presence too : eye-catchingly fashionable, and willing to push the style envelope, she could easily be an Oscar actress. She’s the female version of Scott Brown — and a policy wonk besides.

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If all else were equal, Kayyem would easily grab the largest number of Democratic delegates at the upcoming caucuses and go on to face Charlie Baker — no slouch in the charisma department himself. But Democratic activists run Masachusetts; they are not amateurs, and no matter how strongly Kayyem may appeal to their idealistic paint, many — probably most — listen not to their paint but to their posts and beams, the basic structure that is the State government which they build and maintain. The carpenter in them knows that Coakley or Grossman already occupy the building and know where its doors and stairways turn up.

Dr. Berwick at least has the health care constituencies to himself. They’ve been his go-to all his adult life and into his government career. They know him, and he knows them. Who does Kayyem have to compare ? I suppose that social media is in itself an interest group these days; and very much a Democratic-leaning one; and them, she has. I run into Kayyem supporters when I’m online far more frequently than supporters of Berwick, Grossman , and Coakley combinbed. But social media people do not overlap very well with caucus goers, many of whom are elderly or professorial and temperamentally at odds with social-speak. Thus both Kayyem and Berwick are toughing it out speaking to 50 people at a gathering or even just 20. It’s like building a sand castle one grain at a time, but there’s no other way for them to climb the castle wall within which lurk Grossman and Coakley.

The caucuses lead to the Democratic convention, at which a candidate must win 15 % at least of the voting delegates. If not, their names won’t be on the Primary ballot. Important to caucus goers are the policy plans, articulated at length, that both Berwick and Kayyem are issuing on their websites. (Grossman too.) A delegate may or may not give kudos to any of these plans; but their issuance at least assures a potential delegate that the candidate offering them is ready — maybe — to govern on Day One. But who to commit to ? We will soon know.

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I mentioned Charlie Baker. How is he doing, you ask ? From where I sit typing, he looks doing quite well. He and his running mate Karyn Polito have raised as much money as the Democratic money champ, Steve Grossman. Baker even has a primary cahllenger, a Tea party true believer — “gun rights,’ anti-immigrant, “voter ID,” blame-the-poor : the whole Tea-angry talk show — whose presence in the Republican race frees up Baker to be the moderate problem-solver that Massachusetts voters like.

Baker has given us much more lollipop than the chippy curve he pitched at folks four years ago. He presses the flesh and seems to like it. He mixes with people. He visits cities, even Boston, and talks city issues almost like a Mayor. He has begun to offer policy papers as worthy as, or better, than those of Kayyem, Berwick, and Grossman. He is running almost as if he were competing right now with all four potential democratic winners; and in fact he is competing with them right now. The Tea party, which will, hopefully, split off to one of the several protest candidates on the November ballot, represents about one third of Republican voters. The other two thirds, who form Baker’s core, amount to no more than eight percent of those who will vote for Governor in November. He’ll need to convince plenty of Democrats that he is a better choice than Grossman, Coakley, Kayyem, or Berwick; and the surest way to do that is to do it now, when all four are in the field.

Massachusetts voters often choose Republican governors as a check on our one-party legislature. The four governors prior to Deval Patrick were all GOP. Baker has history on his side. Yet it still might not be enough. Grossman and Kayyem look very strong to me at this time, as strong as Baker; and Berwick stands not far behind them.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#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

#MAGOV : AN OPEN LETTER TO MARK FISHER

On Thursday I received a letter from the “Committee to Elect Fisher for Governor.” Since I am Here and Sphere’s politics reporter, I had heard of Mr. Fisher — had surfed his facebook page, in fact, and not favorably. I wondered why he would be writing to me. I read his letter. Half way through it, I was moved to answer him. As I read to its end, I found in it truly serious questions about what our politics is all about and thus decided to answer him by what political people call an “open letter.”

“Dear Candidate Fisher :

“You write me because of my ‘service to the Republican Party,” for which I thank you. I am, as you note, a registered Republican, as were four generations of my forbears. The Republican party meant something to my Dad, Grand Dad, and Great Grand-Dad, and it has meant something to me since I first became active just out of college. I thus looked in your letter for some commitment on your part to what it has meant to us. I found none. What I did find, I reject.

“You say that you were moved to run for Governor because Governor Patrick “re-opened the tolls on the western part of the Mass Pike.” You then say that “tolls are great for only…Patronage,’ and you decry the men and women who work as toll collectors.

“A candidacy that starts by denigrating people who work is a strange candidacy. Toll collectors work hard under sometimes horrible weather conditions and at all hours. If they earn an average of $ 76,000 a year, as you write, that is hardly a king’s ransom ; but it is enough for them to participate in the consumer economy that keeps our economy — and their family’s lives — moving forward.

“You also miss the larger needs that the resumed tolls address. Our state’s roads and bridges badly need repair, and our public transit facilities break down all the time for lack of money to maintain them, much less upgrade them.

“You talk about ‘conservative values.’ I’m not sure what ‘conservative’ means any more, but on your facebook page you cite several agendas which defame whatever defensible adjective you want to ascribe to them.

“You would deny to women control over thrir own bodies and health care, something that neither you nor I have any right to do and a contravention of the policy of every Republican Governor this State has had in my lifetime.

“You want gay and transgemder people to not have the full civil rights that all citizens are entitled to and which the Republican party was created to fight for. Your position is an affront to all people of good will and incompatible with a Republican nomination for any office.

“You talk about ‘gun rights.’ Such talk was offensive long before Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown, not to mention George Zimmerman. To talk of ‘gun rights’ now is to pit yourself against the entire society which your candidacy seeks to govern. Mr. Fisher, guns HAVE no rights. people have rights. And our society has the right to be free of individuals with loaded guns putting everyone in fear and worse — for what ?

“You dehumanize the people you call “illegal immigrants.” you say they cost the state almost two billion dollars. Mr. Fisher, that’s just wrong. As Jeb Bush — a Republkican — said at this year’s CPAC conference, ‘undocumnted immigrants are a boon to the economy. and because of their young demographic, they’re also how we rescue Social security.’

“Mr. Fisher, undocumented workers pay more in taxes in one year, every year, than Mitt Romney has paid in his entire lifetime. Do you have any idea what the life of most undocumented peope is like ? I have seen them standing outside in summer or the cold, at dawn every day, across from Home Depot in my city, hoping to be hired for a day’s pay. Undocumented people — and immigrants similar — take the subway to work at 5 AM, working at the toilet-cleaning and janitor jobs, in office buildings hospitals hotels and universities, for pay that until recently was minimum wage. Yet you decry these people ? Mr. Fisher, they are heroes.

“Reading what you think of the least among us, do you have the slightest idea what is entailed in governing the 6,000,000-plus people who live in Massachusetts ? The Governor  has to administer our roads, bridges, transit system; to maintain our clean water and environmental quality; to assure a strong public school curriculum; to operate the State’s parks, beaches, courts, district attorneys, prisons, half-way houses, career retraining centers, welfare offices, retirement, veterans affairs, and a variety of administrative agencies, licensing divisions, tax collection, and more. All of these exist because in our extremely complex, diverse, and changing society that we call Massachusetts, capable administration keeps our intricately adjustable State moving forward with as little friction or confusion as human capabilities reasonably manage.

“I read nothing, in all your campaign talk, of any plans to improve, reform, or add to any of these Governor’s responsibilities; indeed, nothing of any of the public policy issues that activists everywhere are discussing and proposing. All the other Governor candidates who I am following have plenty of policy suggestions : where are yours ?

“I can only conclude that your candidacy isn’t about us, the 6,000,000 and more. It’s about you. It is ALL about you. As you say near the end of your letter, “in the past I would vote and then complain.” But “my circumstances have now changed.”

I, I, my, me, and mine ! Mr. Fisher, I hate to tell you, but being Governor is NOT about you. It”s about everyone, diversely, equally respected and all of us together.

Sinerely, Michael 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

MELEE IN MASSACHUSETTS : TIME FOR “THE MANAGER”

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^ Pressing the flesh and speaking : Charlie Baker at the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast this morning

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How quickly things change in politics ! Two weeks ago, as the GOP-induced government shut down ended, Charlie Baker, as the Republican candidate for Governor, looked poisoned. Today, as the President finds that his managerial failings have tanked the people’s trust and imperiled his signature legislation, the ACA, Baker as the Republican looks almost anointed. It’s Baker’s hour. All that he has to do now is not flub the moment.

So what do I, Coach Michael, suggest of his star receiver ? Just this :

1.Baker made his all-pro status as an excellent manager. precisely what President Obama is not.. Almost as exactly what Governor Patrick also has not been. The contrast shouts itself.

2.In a state like Massachusetts, heavy with institutions and even weightier with institutional government collaboration, being an excellent manager matters tremendously.

3.None of the Democratic candidates for Governor except Steve Grossman comes even close to Baker’s mastery of institutional management.

4.Managerial competence may be a dry theme, a calorie-free kind of Diet Coke, but with managerial failing so luridly splayed across the Washington wide screen, the story achieves epic dimensions. Being competent, we see, does matter — Odysseus, not Achilles.

Charlie Baker must run as the Manager in Chief.

It makes sense within the Republican context too. The GOP even in “forward” Massachusetts has been flayed by theorists, whipped by negativity, bent to the purposes of anti-tax mind block, extorted by gun zealots, roasted by social-issue regressives. to the point that we have almost forgotten that in Massachusetts for the past 60 years at least, “Republican” meant civil rights, social justice, big projects, and benefits for all. The record, in that context, from John Volpe and Frank Sargent to Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and, yes, even Mitt Romney stands ; but has been obscured, if not overwritten, by recent GOP “party of no.” But the GOP is a palimpsest, not an eraser board; and the Republican past is there, in full cry, once we scrape away the negative overlay. As the Master Manager, Baker scrapes away the “no” and substitutes a “yes.”

And there is, in Massachusetts state governance, much to be managed. i cite the following challenges :

1.the vast transportation improvements for which money was approved, contentiously, this year.

2.the 1.4 billion affordable housing bond that St. Rep. Jay Livingstone shepherded through to passage this week.

3.public school transformation, which became almost a defining issue in the Boston Mayor election

4.establishing innovation Districts, in Roxbury, Hyde Park, and probably Central Massachusetts, similar to Boston’ Innovation District already working.

5.assuring immigrants in Massachusetts that they’ll be welcomed into the community — and thus the economy — rather than harrassed out of it.

So the question is, “will Charlie Baker run as the Master Manager ?” Or, “Has Baker sufficient rigor to steer clear of recent Republican apoplexies ? The discipline to not get deflected, even once, throughout an entire campaign ?” The personality to stray positive, to be Mr. good Guy always ? If so, he will very likely be Massachusetts’s next Governor.

That said, Baker’s potential Democratic opponents are not sitting on their duffs. Juliette Kayyem is barnstorming the entire state, talking to Democratic activists — and drawing significant numbers of them to hear her pitch. Donald Berwick is doing the same : drawing less numbers, but making a distinctive, and very moving case, for the Governor as moral leader, the voice of “do the right thing.” In contrast Steve Grossman is proceeding more matter-of-factly, but raising the most money; and Martha Coakley — the common wisdom’s front runner — is presenting herself on big stages, the candidate of institutional presence. (This seems to me not at all a wise strategy. Voters even in institutional Massachusetts don’t readily cozy up to candidates garbed luxuriously in ceremony.) Then there’s Joseph Avellone, an affable and intelligent guy, successful in medicine and business, but very underfunded and quite — so far — the underdog even among underdogs.

The Democrats will choose their candidate at a party convention, whence a candidate must draw 15 % of the delegates’ votes in order to have his or her name appear on the Primary ballot. (A candidate can also get to that ballot by submitting 10,000 valid voter signatures.) My guess is that none of the five has anything close to a majority, and that at least three and possibly four, will make it to that ballot. All the more reason for Baker to run as the master manager and not get squeezed into this or that policy crevasse.

Baker’s easiest opponent to beat ? Martha Coakley.
His toughest to beat ? Probably Juliette Kayyem
His most down-to-the-wire closest fight ? Steve Grossman.

But wouldn’t be fun were the voters of Massachusetts to have the choice of Charlie Baker and Don Berwick ? So far, as I see it, that’s the best outcome for voters who put high-minded state reform first on their civic agenda.

—- 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 :

photo (19)

^ 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