MAGOV14 : THE DEMOCRATS CHOOSE STEVE GROSSMAN. BUT…

photo (34)

^ Democratic convention nominee Steve Grossman chats up legendary Charlestown pol Gerard Doherty on Union Street, at Bunker Hill Day parade

—- —- —

On Saturday Democratic activists made their choice for our state’s next governor emphatically known. They want Steve Grossman.

Grossman, who currently serves as state Treasurer, won about 35 % of delegate votes. His nearest rival, Attorney General Martha Coakley — once thought the front runner — received only 23 % of votes, barely edging Don Berwick, who won 22 %. Juliette Kayyem, my pick, won 12 %, Joe Avellone 7 %.

The delegates were not rong to favor Steve Grossman. He is well prepared, has every issue at his immediate command, articulates the details in easily understood sentences. He has a long history as Democratic activist, an even longer history operating a family business, understands jobs and economic priorities. Other things being equal, he would be a very strong governor.

But other things are not equal.

First, the real governor of Massachusetts is the Speaker of the House, currently Robert DeLeo. What DeLeo wants for legislation, gets enacted. what he does not want, does not get enacted. time and time again he — like his predecessors — has shown Governor Patrick who the real power is in the State House.

Second, Democratic legislators — there are 130 of these — do not like to be out in a vise between the Democratic Speaker and a Democratic governor. Much easier for them to work with a GOP governor, because then the Democratic party’s State House power is concentrated on the Speaker, and all can follow his lead, unpressured by a Democratic governor’s competing constituency.

The one requirement, for this scenario to work, is that the GOP candidate for governor be credible, as a leader, as a politician, as a vote getter. Charlie Baker this time around is proving himself that and more. He is, simply put, running the most voter-appealing, solid outreach campaign — to big city neighborhoods especially — that I’ve seen from our GOP at least since 1998, the year that gave us the late Paul Cellucci.

Baker has also raised a vital issue : major reform of the state’s technology. Almost every branch of state government needs it. Technological obsolescence is one big reason why DCF, for egregious example, has failed. Baker also supports the $ 10.50 – $ 11.00 minimum wage raise up, with significant add ons that will help low-income families and small businesses too. I’ve seen nothing like it from any of the Democratic governor hopefuls.

This is a fact that even Steve Grossman cannot compete with. For all his command of issues and all of his solid ties to Democratic activists, he still represents division, not unity, in the State House. And unlike Deval Patrick, he is not Black, or an outsider, and doesn’t move the heart of civil rights activists from Salem to Pittsfield and everywhere in between.

Only a GOP governor has an independent power base, in the 63 % of Massachusetts voters who aren’t Democrats, sufficiently large to force the Speaker to deal. This too is a fact. it is the single most important fact in choosing a Massachusetts governor. Right now, my money says that Charlie Baker will win in November by 52 % to 48 %. the polls point to that result as well.

Let the game begin for real.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : THE NEW GLOBE POLL AND WHAT IT TELLS US

1 Baker and Coakley BG

^ closing the gap ; Martha Coakley now leads Charlie Baker by only 5 points, and the lean is in his direction

—- —- —-

About three hours ago the Boston Globe published anew poll showing some significant movement in the relative positions of the leading candidates for Governor. Specifically, the poll showed these numbers

Baker 32  Coakley 37

Baker 32 Grossman 26

Against Juliette Kayyem and Don Berwick, Baker leads. Kayyem and Berwick remain unknown to almost 80 percent of Massachusetts voters.

This is a link to the graphic detailing the numbers in this poll : http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2014/06/05/close-race-for-governor-ahead/lGwwKzkrTQlulHrEXdTgDO/igraphic.html

Now let us take a closer look at baker’s numbers against Grossman and Coakley and you will see that he is doing better even than these numbers indicate :

Baker is unknown by over 20 % of Massachusetts voters but draws 32 percent.
Coakley is unknown by only 5 % (or less) and draws 37 %. What this comparison actually tells us that Baker is ahead even of Coakley though he polls behind by 5 points. Baker gets his 32 percent from 80% — a “win rate” of 40 %. Coakley gets her 37 % from 95 % of voters : a “win rate of 38 %. assuming that Baker continues to win 40 % of the 20 % who don’t know him, and Coakley wins only 38 % of these voters, the November result would be something like Coakley 44.5 %, Baker 40 %, leaving the decision up to a still large number of undecideds (the two independent candidates draw 9 % and 2 % respectively, but as election day nears their vote will decrease).

Against Steve Grossman, Baker gets, as I said, his same 32 percent from 80 % of the voters; Steve Grossman gets his 26 % from the 60 % of voters who know his name. Grossman’s “win rate” is much higher than Coakley’s. He is getting 42 % among the 60 % of voters who know him. This gives him a November target of 43 %, a margin of three points over Baker’s November potential.

Both Baker results now point to a very close race; and the momentum at present is strongly running in baker’s direction. He is making a strong impression, and — surprise — capturing the interest, and tweaking the imagination, of city voters. Given that about 16 % of Massachusetts voters remain undecided (or supporting one of the side candidates), Baker has strong potential to close the gap with both Grossman and Coakley. A nine to seven break in his favor makes it a one point race versus Grossman and a two pointer versus Coakley.

At that point., all bets are off. Baker can win this thing. Right now I think he will. But yes, there is a long way to go and much can change.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : WHAT THE DORCHESTER DAY PARADE SHOWED ME

1 charlie b aker and karyn polito

^ right now, the team to beat : Karyn Polito and Charlie Baker

—- —- —-

Governor campaigns in Massachusetts resemble no other partisan election here. Whatever the polarization poisoning elections to national office, none have any force when our commonwealth’s voters go to choose who will run things at the State House. It was proved to me forcefully, yesterday at the iconic Dorchester day parade. There, marching over three miles along Dorchester Avenue from Lower Mills to Columbia Road, Republican candidate Charlie Baker got a very enthusiastic reception from the crowd — mot of whose hands he shook. There, in the heartland of Marty Walsh’s almost entirely Democratic-enrolled wards of Boston, Baker — and his electrifying running mate Karyn Polito — conquered all. Beyond the reception, which might well be just a nicety, there was commitment given by many activists and neighborhood leaders whom i talked to. There was also, so a first hand source told me, a very good bond established– revived — even celebrated — between Mayor Walsh and both Baker and Polito, conversing before the parade’s start, with whom, after all, Walsh served during his legislative time. I do not suppose a commitment was given; that wouldn’t work. But my source’s impression — that of a political activist — was that Baker, Polito, and Walsh made it clear to each other that they could work together and would work together if Baker is elected. One friend, who is himself a candidate this year (not for Governor), seeing the reception given to Baker, told me quite directly : “Baker’s gonna win.” There are several solid reasons why Baker and Polito look so strong right now : 1. Baker and Polito are running as a team. On the Democratic side, with four (of five) governor hopefuls running and three (or four) lieutenant governor hopefuls, who knows who will be the ticket ? Or if they can work together, even like one another ? In addition, none of the Democratic candidates or the second spot has anything close to the experience that Karyn Polito has, not to mention the charisma. 2. Baker — and Polito — have forged solid ties to several big-city ethnic communities, not to mention the LGBT communities. I’ve personally witnessed it and seen the results as I have talked to many, many people whom I know in all these communities. The reception given baker and Polito at the Dorchester Day parade tells me that, as of now, they’d win a much bigger share of the Boston vote than any of the Democratic hopefuls : possibly as much as 40 %. Of course the election is NOT now. But the momentum and presence is there. 3.The fundamental fact of how Massachusetts is governed is that only a GOP governor has a power base big enough, and independent enough, to deal with the Speaker of the House on a more or less equal footing. When the governor is a Democrat, he or she and the Speaker compete for influence within the same party — or else they split the party, and as has been shown time and again, the Speaker always wins that fight. It’s his agenda, his priorities, his timing, his details, that get enacted. With a strongly based GOP governor — and baker would be that — there’s influence on legislation beyond the Speaker’s range of power, and a GOP governor isn’t embarrassed, as Governor Patrick has been, facing a Speaker who is also a Democrat, to compromise with a Speaker not of his own party. Thus the fact ; a GOP governor and Democratic Speaker move the state forward with strong political efficiency. At last night’s Governor / Lieutenant Governor Forum at Roxbury Community College, all of the weaknesses of the Democratic position stood in plain sight. The lieutenant governor trio — Mike Lake, Steve Kerrigfan, James Arena-DeRosa- either bloviated with great prolixity Lake) or talked blue ribbon agendas that would do justice to a high school civics aclass but on which no elected lieutenant governor — certainly not these three, whom no one but activists has ever heard of — would have the slightest influence. The governor hopefuls definitely have learned a thing or two since I first saw them on stage Forum-ing. At the Roxbury event several actually mentioned Speaker DeLeo, quite respectfully too. Clearly they see that they had better include him in their message, because of exactly the problem i have outlined. The matter is not merely my own thing. at several recent Forums, progressives have pushed the governor hopefuls ; what exactly will you do about the Spreaker’s conservatism ? the answer that i heard most often last night was “compromise.” That they will have to do, because the agendas set forth by several at the Forum reach for the moon, a place that does not include Speaker DeLeo in its population. It is not a good sign when candidates feel the need to mae promises which they surely cannot keep, just as surely will have to unravel if they’re to get anything at all done. And much needs be done. Juliette Kayyem continues to get the fundamental point, one that Charlie baker has been talking for two months ; the state needs to modernize its systems big time. Baker calls it “move the state’s technology into the 21st Century,” Kayyem calls it “better data management,’ but the policy point is the same. Steve Grossman soke the Forum’s best answer, to any question, when in two minutes he summed up the injustice and the financial waste of incarcerating people for low level drug offenses. His message is too “jobs and business” to fit the progressive dream, but time and again he shows long and profound command of social justice issues. Clearly as governor he will be as aggressive as possible ; “level playing field, no one left out.” Yet Grossman has no more, or longer, commitment to social justice issues than Baker, and so far I have yet to see a Grossman plan that surpasses the social justice, economic connection tandem that Charlie Baker has put forth. All of what i have just written can change. Next weekend the democrats convene to choose a party nominee. After that, media focus will shift to that nominee and to the Democratic run up to the September primary. Baker will no longer have the voters basically to himself. And if the Democratic nominee has to play catch-up — ironic, in this bluest of states on national issues — there’s plenty of Democratic voters to play catch up with. Still, Baker and Polito have given themselves a huge head start; and my experience says that votes won early are the votes won most solidly. Steve Grossman, now the likely Democratic nominee, has a huge fight on his hands.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : JULIETTE KAYYEM GOES ON THE ATTACK

Image

Arlington, MA, May 10, 2014 — Speaking a la stump to about 100 supporters at Arlington Town hall today, Juliette Kayyem spoke loudly of plans, not promises. Eager to distinguish herself from Martha Coakley, and to override Steve Grossman — the two perceived front runners –she exclaimed, in a finger-pointing voice, “nobody DESERVES to be governor ! We can’t just nominate the next in line, this is no time for caution, we have to be bold !”

“We’ve been cautious before,’ she scolded, “and what did it get us ? from 1990 to 2006 we lost every governor election to Republicans, who mostly ran this state into the ground !”

So much for being the first state to enact universal health care (Mitt Romney), the first Massachusetts governor to embrace gay rights (Bill Weld) and to begin the huge clean-up of our state’s rivers and harbors (Weld again). So much for Paul Cellucci and the huge paydays that the “Big Dig” gave to thousands of union construction workers. So much yet again for Bill Weld, re-elected in 1994 by the largest vote margin ever accorded a governor seeking another term.

But if Massachusetts Republicans thought it was they who Kayyem’s “J’accuse” speech had most in mind, they had it wrong. No Republican, not even Charlie Baker, was attacked by Kayyem as fiercely, or in detail,. as Martha Coakley. said Kayyem, “I sat next to Martha Coakley at a Forum and listened as she ducked the question of sex education in early school. ‘mmm, that’s hard,’ Martha said. Well, it isn’t hard ! Not when teen pregnancies are rising, especially in Western Massachusetts !”
Which, of course, is Coakley’s home area.

Kayyem was far from finished. At length she detailed Coakley blocking Governor Patrick’s gun control plans and delaying his moves for CORI reform. And having thus reminded everyone of Coakley’s “caution,” as she called it — I have a less kindly impression of her — Kayyem attached the “caution’ sign to Steve Grossman, whom she dubbed the kind “Beacon Hill insiders who we Democrats nominated and lost every time.” Which he is.

Kayyem was well justified in pointing out the insider and cautious nature of Coakley’s and Grossman’s candidacies and to contrast them with Deval Patrick’s outsider status, as she called it. Massachusetts voters at least since Bill Weld’s election have made very clear their unreadiness to elect Beacon Hill politicians governor, their insistence on governors un-compromised by legislative deals and big-contract administration.

The bold hopeful then delivered “plans, not promises” — a swipe, perhaps, at Don Berwick, who has promised almost everything, and with whose appeal to progressives Kayyem seemed determined to compete. Kayyem detailed plans for criminal justice reform education improvement, increased funding for social services, and — her signature — “better data management,” which she said means updating the entire state government’s technology, interface and transparency.

Of which proposal she claimed, “I am the only candidate to say this !”

It was an impressive speech, a campaign kick-off affair, by a candidate who has worked hard to become as convincing a political voice as she is a policy researcher. “This is not a time for caution ! We must be bold,” she insisted, over and over again…

Will it work ? Will Kayyem’s version of Bold succeed in gaining her a large enough following to challenge the Caution Twins ? It might. But I have doubts it’ll do much more than that. Here’s why :

1.Kayyem is not as clearly outside as she wants voters to see. She’s had a long career as a top-level policy advisor to one president and to Governor Patrick and advised the Bush administration on interrogation issues. The typical — the most credible — Massachusetts outsider candidate for governor comes from the world of business : Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker both, or from the “Governor GOP” party, whose entire existence is a kind of good-government watchdog agency, — and Massachusetts has many venerable.

2.Kayyem seemed at recent Forums to have accepted that she cannot be the candidate of the Democratic party’s progressives — that Don Berwick owns that role; and that her candidacy stood for realistic management and progress “for right now,’ as she retorted at one Forum to a Don Berwick flight of policy fancy. But her Arlington stump speech embraced the progressive agenda — and the label. I doubt it will change progressive minds.

3.Instead of excoriating Massachusetts’s recent GOP governors, she should have said something like this : “We Democrats have allowed the Republicans of our state to be more progressive, or more effective, than us. We nominated flawed insiders, next-in-line candidates, cautious conservatives, and they lost.

“Look at what Weld, Cellucci, and Romney did after beating us ! Their reforms should have been ours.

“We need to be practical reformers just as they were and, if possible, to do reform even better. Governor Patrick has been a great reformer, but we can do better than even he has done, on many many fronts. Because — believe me when I tell you — if we don’t do it, Charlie Baker will !”

THAT would have been bold. It would also have been the truth.

An insider can fib or fake the facts and get away with it. An outsider cannot. Especially when there’s an even stronger outsider waiting in the wings to see whom he will face in November.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : CANDIDATES NIGHT IN BOSTON’S WARD 3

photo (1)

As politically savvy, now, as she has always been personally c harming : Juliette Kayyem at Boston’s Ward 3 Forum

—- —- —

About 35 activists in Boston’s Ward 3 gathered in a basement room of the Michael Nazzaro Center in the North End to listen to a line of Democratic candidates for governotr, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. the candidates were introduced by committee chairman Jason Aluia, spoke, then took questions. However brief each’s time, much ws learned. The candidates for governor, especially, now know what they are about, and why; the vagueness of January has left us, its place taken by almost jarring specificity.

Three governor aspirants spoke : Juliette Kayyem, Steve Grossman, and Joe Avellone. All have evolved — Kayyem the most.

photo (3)

running against Charlie Baker, he is : Steve Grossman at ward 3 Forum

Grossman continues to have succinct answers in great detail for every issue given him, and he has shifted to “general election mode” ; half of his talk attacked Charlie Baker, whose campaign themes — at which Grossman guesses — he was happy to dismiss. Unhappily for Grossman, Baker’s themes aren’t at all what Grossman told ward 3’s Democratic activists they would be.

Avellone has long had his theme : fighting substance abuse — he’ll appoint a cabinet level officer of Recovery and Re-entry. Very good idea; and Avellone had no problem answering my question about the state’s 56 million dollar health connector disaster by calling for an immediate waiver from the Federal ACA. He’s the first Democratic governor candidate to do so.

Juliette Kayyem has grown enormously as a political leader and is evolving faster and more fully every week. This I had already seen. Last night she spoke with great clarity about criminal justice reform — which is coming to be her companion issue to “better data management,’ her first — in ways most voters have already come to agree with, bit which, as she said, has been taken up first by Republican governors “because they can; no one will accuse them of being soft on crime.” She’s right, and persuasive. how can Democratic activists in progressive Massachusetts refuse to demand reforms that Republican governors, no less, are already implementing ?

This is the second time, in as many Forums, that I have heard Kayyem evoke the example of Republican reform as a prod to the Massachusetts Democratic party ; last week, at the ProgressiveMass Forum, when quizzed about her role in Bush-era interrogation discussions, she cited John McCain as taking the same torture position that she advocated. And ;praised him.

I had a longish talk with Kayyem before the ward 3 Forum about how she would deal with the Speaker of the House, who rules all Massachusetts legislation, regardless of governors or anybody else. During our discussion Kayyem suggested ways of dealing but did not mention the method that I now think she has right at hand. How better to move the Democratic Speaker than to show that the reforms she wants are already being done by Republicans ? At the very least, this line of argument puts the Speaker on the defensive even.

Will Kayyem make this an explicit tactic ? We shall see. It has legs, if she wants them.

I also learned much at the ward 3 Forum about three of the Democrats’ Lieutenant Governor candidates. Here is potential embarrassment aplenty for whoever becomes the governor nominee, because none of the three has a resume even close to the long experience of local and state government possessed by Baker’s running mate Karyn Polito. Nor do they have any of her charisma. Still, two of the three spoke well and boast resumes strong on bureaucratic accomplishment.

James arena-deRosa and Steve Kerrigan both claim stints as Obama administrators, to which Kerrigan adds time as a staffer for the later Ted Kennedy. Arena deRosa spoke eloquently about his passion for politics (though to my knowledge he has never been a candidate before now), Kerrigan of his sense of duty. both men discussed a few of the major issues that their boss, the governor, might delegate to them to help with.

Still, neither man can possibly tell who that boss will be; where Karyn Polito have already had three months to synchronise and to combine their long and varied experience of state government both executive and legislative, it’s strictly guess work whether Arena deRosa or Kerrigan will get along with whoever the Democratic nominee is, much less blend well with him or her. And don;t scoff : I well remember how fully Mike Dukakis shunted aside his own lieutenant governor, Thomas P. O’Neill III, or how utterly Democratic governor nominee John Silber, in 1990, threw his running mate Marjorie Clapprood under the bus.

Mike Lake also spoke. His words had more smile in them than mile, however. I do not see a bright future for him as second clarinet to the first Democrat.

But to return to Juliette Kayyem : I have now seen and heard enough to be able to say it : she is my pick for the Democratic primary. This is not a formal Here and Sphere endorsement, as i have yet to talk of it with my partner. But it is my personal choice. Juliette Kayyem is best able to compete with Charlie Baker. She’s less rigid, intellectually or personally, than Steve Grossman, bolder than Martha Coakley, much more realistic than Don Berwick, and of wider experience and personal charisma than Joe Avellone.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, IT’S NO CONTEST

photo (71)

^ charisma and Italian heritage plus a strong political resume make Karyn Polito a significant presence for Charlie Baker

—- —- —

Voters vote for Governor, not Lieutenant governor. But were voters to focus on the subordinate part of the Governor ticket, it’d be no contest this year. Karyn Polito, Charlie Baker’s running mate, has more political clout than all four Democratic hopefuls combined.

Polito has been a Shrewsbury select-woman and was a five-term State representative. She ran statewide in 2010, for state treasurer, drawing 45 % of the vote in her losing effort. This year, as Baker’s running mate, she has raised significant money : 67,369.98 in February 2014, 181,378.96 in March, and 127,693.49 in April. She has 354,587.89 on hand as of May 1st. She also slammed the GOP convention door shut in her home area, the Worcester suburbs, on Baker’s rival, Mark Fisher. Though Fisher also lives in Shrewsbury, he drew zero — yes, zero — Shrewsbury votes at the convention to Baker’s 39.

Polito’s politics have evolved, from opposition to gay marriage and Tea Party friendly to mainstream, even somewhat progressive : today she asserts her support for marriage equality. Opponents have noted the rapidity of the shift and questioned its sincerity; but it’s what running mates always do if the “top of the ticket’ demands it. Sincere or not, it’s not easily taken back. Voters will allow a politicians’ views to evolve. They are less kind to backsliding afterwards. Committed to equality she is.

Baker has always been a civil rights progressive, and Polito is on his team. Her significance is by no means limited to money-raising. Entering a room, she turns heads, electrifies — Juliette Kayyem is her only charisma equal in this year’s election. I’ve seen it, it’s real. Polito is also the only person of Italian name — other than governor hopeful Joe Avellone — running for any statewide office this year. it matters.

Italian ethnic voting has faded plenty since 1960, when John A. Volpe used a then still huge and vibrant Italian community to win the governorship despite John Kennedy carrying Massachusetts for President by more than a million votes. Today, voters of Italian name are the grandchildren of 1960. As often as not, they are Italian in name only. Nonetheless, many do identify their Italian heritage, especially in the old Italian “heartland” on Boston’s north side and points north up Routes 28 and 1-A — and also in Worcester’s Belmont Hill neighborhood, where Volpe confidant Al Manzi once held political sway.

In these neighborhoods, Karyn Polito might as well be the governor candidate, not the running mate, given the intensity with which she is welcomed. I have seen this too — more than once.

Polito’s voters might make a difference if the governor contest is close — as it will be if Steve Grossman is the Democratic nominee. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Polito brings Baker as much as three percent of the state’s vote.

That’s because, in contrast, the four Democrats running for lieutenant governor all look B-team, even C team. Until this year I hadn’t even heard of Leland Cheung, a Cambridge City councillor, or of Steve Kerrigan, who has been a selectman in the small Worcester County town of Lancaster (and whom I’ve actually met). As for James Arena deRosa, who knew ? Not I. The fourth Democratic lieutenant governor candidate is Mike Lake. Him, I’m familiar with, more or less. In 2010 he ran for Auditor, losing to Suzanne Bump in the Democratic Primary. Lake grew up in Melrose and has enjoyed a career, so his biography tells us, with United Way and now as an executive with a city-university partnership initiative at Northeastern University. All good; and in 2010 he did have visible support among activists. Still, his resume can’t compare with Polito’s.

As for money on hand, the four Democrats look like add-ons :

Mike Lake as of May 1 had 42,935.07 cash on hand.
Leland Cheung on this date had 87,199.63 on hand and raised 5,209.63 in April.
Steve Kerrigan had 180,903.84 but raised only 9,555.00 in April
James Arena DeRosa had 20,079.71 on hand and raised 4,475.89 in April

Why didn’t more significant Democrats run for Lieutenant Governor ? Warren Tolman, for example. He’s running for attorney general but would have been a very significant candidate. But he has traveled another road.

And for Karyn Polito and her running mate that has — so far — made all the difference.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE May 8, 2014 at 11 AM: Last night, at a candidate Forum in Boston’s ward 3, I had an extensive look at three of the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor. Read my impression of them in my new post coming this afternoon.

 

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

Image

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

—- —- — —-

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.

Image

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

Image

^ 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 ?

Image

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

MAGOV14 : CHARLIE BAKER — THE 30 % MAN

photo (15)

^ a scene he’ll have to repeat about 500,000 times : Charlie Baker wins a voter

—- —- —-

Both new polls of the Massachusetts Governor race make clear that Charlie Baker has a 30 percent chance of winning. Give or take, about 30 percent of Massachusetts voters support him no matter who his November opponent will be.

It’s a simple calculation. 30 percent support means 30 percent chance of winning, just aa 60 percent support means 60 percent chance of winning.

I say this even though about 33 percent of our state’s voters poll “undecided.” If Baker is to win, he will need to carry the undecided voters about two to one. Very rarely does a block of voters that large — in Massachusetts, 33 percent equals about 1,000,000 voters — pick any candidate by two to one.

Yesterday’s U Mass Poll gave us a more detailed look at the governor race than did Western Mass University’s poll last week. Let’s look both polls’ numbers now :

U Mass Poll                       Western Mass U Poll

Baker 34                             Baker 25
Coakley 45 ( und 21)     Coakley 54 (und 21)

Baker 29                              Baker 29
Grossman 35 ( und 36 ) Grossman 38 ( und 33 )

Baker 32
Kayyem 32 ( und 36 )

Baker polled much better in the U Mass Poll against Coakley, no better at all against Grossman. But this poll allows us a peek at something more ominous : how Baker polls against Juliette Kayyem. She draws a mere 3 % of the Democratic Primary vote — according to the poll — and so is, basically, a “generic Democratic vote.” Against a “generic Democrat,” therefore, Baker polls dead heat — but no better. This cannot be good news for a man now running his second statewide campaign for governor.

I said, last week in analyzing the Western Mass University poll, that Baker has a very narrow window to victory. The new poll confirms it. Against Coakley, he is down by 11 points with only 21 percent undecided. To beat her he’d have to win the undecideds by 17 to 4; that will not happen. If he wins the undecideds by 12 to 9 — which could happen — he loses to Coakley by 54 to 46, only a two point difference from the result suggested in the western Mass poll.

Against Grossman, U Mass’s poll offers Baker a marginally better chance than did the Western Mass. From that one, I suggested a 52 to 48 Grossman win (and an opportunity, among legislative insiders, for Baker to turn it around). The U Mass poll has a full 36 percent undecided; if Baker wins them 21 to 15 — a result very doable — he and Grossman tie at 50-50. If that happens, the insider action that I suggested in my previous column would almost certainly give Baker the corner office.

I say “would almost” rather than ‘will” because there’s other factors at work that the U Mass Poll highlights. You will note the “word cloud” statistic ? OK, what words do come to mind — in descending order of frequency — when you think of Baker ? Of Coakley ? Of Grossman ?

For Coakley : 1st, smart; 2nd, liberal; 3rd, honest; 4th, good’; 5th, strong. Democrat / that comes 6th.

For Grossman ; 1st, unknown; 2nd, unsure; 3rd, know; 4th, none.

For Baker : 1st, Republican; 2nd, unknown; 3rd, conservative; Businessman ? Hardly appears at all. Good ? Only a little better. Experienced ? way down the list.

These are hardly good associations for Baker. To be known chiefly as a Republican is, in Massachusetts, to have some ‘splainin’ to do. Conservative, even more ‘splainin’. Baker needs badly to rebrand himself, and he has very little time to do it. And no chance at all to beat Coakley to the words that generate a vote : smart, good, honest, strong — not to mention Democrat.

Baker’s associations do look more vote-productive than Grossman’s. How can an elected statewide office holder, the State Treasurer, poll unknown, unsure, none ? Grossman has spent tons of money to become known, so it seems, only by Democratic activists. With about seven months remaining in the campaign he is not on most voters’ radar. And yet — and yet ! — against the much better known — but “Republican, conservative” — Baker, he polls 6 to 9 points ahead.

The word cloud tells me that my prognosis for Baker in a contest against Grossman has been far too optimistic . If “unknown, unsure” Grossman beats Baker by 6 to 9 points, what will Grossman poll once he does become better known ?

Baker has to be sweating it. But this is what it’s like when you are a “conservative, Republican” drawing about 30 percent in Massachusetts. You have a 30 percent chance to win.

When it’s like that, and you’re in it, you gamble. You throw the dice as far ahead of you as you can.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : April 18, 2014 at 10 AM — turnout might help Baker a little,. In his home Congressional District, the 6th, there is an expensive, very close contest underway between incumbent Democrat John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei. This is a re-match for the two men; both are well known. Turnout will almost certainly tally higher than otherwise, by maybe 20,000 votes; and as Baker lives in Swampscott — the heart of the contest — he can only benefit. — MF

MAGOV14 : WHY CHARLIE BAKER AS GOVERNOR CAN DO WHAT MAYBE NONE OF THE DEMOCRATS CAN DO

Image

One of the big reasons why I find a Charlie Baker governorship a positive prospect is that he, as a Republican, can get a lot of things done that probably none of the five Democrats can do. Example : the minimum wage rise bill, which the House voted Yea on just this week.

that bill was going nowhere, because Speaker DeLeo insisted on an unemployment insurance give-back that Speaker DeLeo insisted on but which few of the Democratic party’s core groups wanted to give. then, about two months ago, Baker announced that he supported the DeLeo bill and, what was more, would expand the earned income tax credit.

Two weeks ago Baker won the GOP nomination for Governor. Next thing I knew, DeLeo’s minimum wage bill, with its give back, was on the House agenda and was voted Yea 123 to 24. All but one democrat voted Yea.

Can there be any doubt that the House took up the deleo bill when it did, and voted it yea, because the Democrats did not want to cede the Minimum wage rise issue to Baker ? And so the bill now goes to conference, with the DeLeo bill certain to be the final law, because DeLeo has that power and because Baker is waiting.

As for the Democrats, not one, in anhy Forum, would commit to supporting the DeLeo bill — and as DeLeo said, if the legislation didn’t contain his give back, it “wasn’t going very far.’ (his words) Steve Grossman even said that he would veto a bill that included the DeLeo give-back.

Were Baker not in the fight, and taking the minimum wage issue up, can there be any doubt that we would see years of battle between this Democrat and that one ? After all, that’; how it has been for eight years of Governor Patrick’s administration — sometimes effective, often not effective at all, occasionally a disaster.

All that baker has to do is raise one of the state’s many major issues — education reform, driver’s licenses for immigrabts, crinminal justiuce reform, transportatioon funding, reconfiguring the DCF, redoing state government’s technology — in a progressive way, but in line with what Speaker DeLeo will support, and it gets done. Why ? Simple : the Democratic party cannot allow the Massachusetts Republican party to steal its key issues and, with them, key constituencies.

As long as the State’s major challnges remain a striggle within the Democratic party, with a small GOP entirely on the sidelines, little gets done. Enter Baker as Governor, however, working with the Speaker, and suddenly almost all gets done, very quickly.

This is how Massachusetts has been best governed since 1990 at least. It remains true today. The one Democratic governor candidate whom I haven’t yet discarded, Juliette Kayyem — shrewd and brilliant charisma champion that she is — needs to tell me how she can get done stuff that Baker WILL get done.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

below : the one Democratic governor hopeful left standing : Juliette Kayyem

Image

WITH THE MINIMUM WAGE NOW RAISED, HERE’S WHAT’S NEXT FOR MASSACHUSETTS

Image

^ the Democrat with fewest weaknesses : Juliette Kayyem

Image

^ the best potential governor, on an across-the-board basis : Charlie Baker (with Nightline’s Dan Rea)

—- —- —-

Two days ago, the Massachusetts House passed a big rise in the minimum wage, to $ 10.50 in 2015 and $ 11.00 in 2016. The House legislation included, however, a provision that the Senate bill does not : a give back of five percent, on the unemployment compensation portion that employees pay. That portion will rise from 15 % to 20 %.

Because the two bills do not mesh, a conference wil be held at which the two bills will be reconciled. Almost certainly the reconciliation will adopt the House version: because Senate President Murray is leaving, whole Speaker DeLeo is very much staying.

Such is the way of things in the Massachusetts legislature. The big result, however, is that the base wage for every Massachusetts worker now earning minimum wage will rise by over $ 3.00 an hour. Minimum wage earners will no longer need as much public, taxpayer-paid assistance as before; taxpayers will get some relief; and workers will have some money to spend into the discretionary economy. In Boston, $ 10.50 to 4 11.00 an hour is still nowhere near enough; not with  rentals costing $ 1,600 and up; but in outlying cities such as Worcester, New Bedford, Holyoke, and Fitchburg, the new minimum wage will provide a real boost to many, many families and thus to the economy of those cities.

There were 24 votes against the Raise. Their message was the same : the higher wage would mean fewer jobs.

Businesses that have been able to short-change employees and pass them off to taxpayers will now not have that taxpayer subsidy. Will these businesses close ? To ask the question is to answer it. What then will they do ? Easy. They will change their business model.

These businesses will be operating in a very different economy, one that will grow quite quickly at first as the boost in wage checks gets spent into the economy. And this is good all around. But it is far from being enough. Massachusetts needs much more reform in how it operates ; some of it economic reform, a lot of it structural.

Here’s what we would like to see happen ;

1.economic : expand the earned income credit to childless families who qualify on an income basis.

2.economic : give Boston granting authority over its liquor licenses. A home rule petition, by Councillor Ayanna Pressley now sits in the legislature awaiting action.

3.economic : enable innovation districts in neighborhoods of Boston, and in outlying cities, on the model of those currently operating in Cambridge and Seaport Boston. Local aid funding can help here.

4.structural : reconfigure the website interface and interactivity of every State department, from health connector to DCF to Secretary of State and permitting. Publish the State Budget online. Embed a mobile phone app into the State’s most-used Department websites, such as the DCF, RMV, DOR, and Transitional assistance.

5.encourage and establish the full range of public school reforms now being put in place in Boston by Superintendent John McDonough

6.human rights : eliminate mandatory sentencing; establish a prisoners’ bill of rights that would provide for legal remedies — including assigning public defenders to each state or county lock-up — to prisoners who are abused by incarceration personnel; pay minimum wage to prisoners doing work they are required to do by the institution; assure re-entry procedures that are fair and helpful to the released prisoner; restore voting rights to convicts who have finished their sentences;.

7.civil rights: extend the state’s transgender rights law to include places of public accommodation. grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and pass the Trust Act

8.gun control: require owners of guns (other than antique) to purchase liability insurance, as we now require owners of vehicles; require smart gun technology

9.transportation : review all transit and road budgets and cost-cut administration where feasible; repair and replace MBTA cars and buses, lines,a nd equipment; expand Green Line to West Medford; complete new stations on Fairmount Line; finish the South Coast rail Connector

10.DCF : hire sufficient case workers so that the state-mandated maximum case load is never breached; pay social workers a professional salary; require the DCF chief to circuit-ride from DCF office to office and to use mobile phone and ipad communication as a regular feature.

All of what we’d like to see is more than enough to challenge two governor terms, much less one. Some of this year’s Governor candidates want still more. That’s OK, for a wish list but not for the campaign, which we hope will be about now and the next four years, not times still over the horizon. After all, our list doesn’t even talk about climate change, alternative fuels, conservation, affordable housing, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant kids, and local aid — any one of which could occupy an entire editorial.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere