MAGOV14 : IT’S GAME ON NOW, TO WIN BOSTON

Baker and Local 26

^ going to the flash point of a Boston election ; Charlie Baker meets with officers of Local 26 Hospitality and Hotel Workers

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The fight is on now. To win Boston, and thereby, probably, the entire election.

You may think my assessment wildly crazy. How can Charlie Baker, the Republican, win a city that has of late voted three to one Democratic, and more than three to one ?

Maybe Baker cannot win the city outright. But even if he comes close, he wins the election. And he is definitely staking his claim to doing just that.

Baker’s move on Boston didn’t begin last week. He has been working the city steadily for many months now, on e community at a time. But last week he made two moves that up the intensity of his Boston effort by a lot : first, he door knocked the heaviest-voting precinct in the city, Dorchester’s ward 16 precinct 12 — a precinct that Marty Walsh won, for mayor, by more than four to one. Second, Baker met with officers of Local 26 Hotel and Hospitality Workers. Local 26 last year made the move — endorsing Marty Walsh over their personal favorite, Felix G. arroyo — that started Walsh’s momentum rolling. Their endorsement of Baker, were it to happen, would surely do the same for him.

Baker hasn’t won the voters of that Dorchester precinct yet, nor has he gained local 26’s endorsement so far. But the fight for both is now on, and beyond it lies much ground : many Boston -based unions of great significance — SEIU Local 1199 in particular — and about 150 voting precincts, low and moderate income, in which the Democratic Governor candidates have yet to make much impact, their campaign having concentrated on the high income suburbs and on Downtown boston’s upper income areas.

Baker has much to offer the voters of these precincts and the members of the city’s major private industry unions. To the voters in communities of color, he offers support for additional charter schools — something that prompted State Rep. Russell Holmes to sponsor a charter cap lift bill that the Senate amended and killed. (Nor will Baker’s support for charter schools put him at odds with Mayor Walsh, who sat on a charter school board and is backing John McDonough’s efforts to transform how Boston public schools are managed). To voters in Dorchester (and beyond), Baker offers a continuation of Boston’s building boom — his proposal to dispose of much State-owned land for development — and thus continued work for everyone in the Building Trades. Continuation of the building boom also offers the workers of Local 26 a prosperous future, just as the recently enacted minimum wage hike — which Baker supported — offers the members of SEIU Local 1199 a chance to earn a decent living.

If all of this reminds you very much of last year’s Boston Mayor campaign, it’s no coincidence. Baker appears to be campaigning Boston very much on Mayor campaign issues, to constituencies (including Mayor Walsh’s core supporters in the Building trades, service workers, and Dorchester) ; and it is shrewd of Baker to do so, because this is what last year’s intense Mayor campaign ingrained into Boston voters’ political expectations generally.

Baker now has the pole position in the race to win boston. Of course the ultimate Democratic nominee can catch up; Boston is Democratic enough that a campaign to catch up to Baker in the city has plenty to work with. But if the Democratic nominee — probably Martha Coakley — has to spend time winning back Boston, that is time that she will not be able to spend winning votes in parts of the state far less favorable to her but where most Massachusetts elections are decided. And Coakley is hardly the candidate to win a game of catch-up. Her vague, surfacey campaign is geared for front running. A catch up candidate has to hit and hit hard and to be specific on the issues, sure of itself, pointed, forensic. I have yet, in five years of watching, to see Martha Coakley be any of these things.

I cannot say enough about the boldness of baker’s 2014 campaign, about its shrewdness, its instinct for how campaigns are run and won, its tone, its currency. We have become accustomed to seeing Republican campaigns run on spin-doctored talking points, delivered to robo-voters, or campaigns of virulent, petty negativity — who can forget Scott Brown making a fetish of Elizabeth Warren’s supposed Cherokee ancestry ? — that alienate everybody not of “the base.” Baker’s campaign — and that of his charismatic running mate, Karyn Polito — look, sound & feel entirely different from all that. theirs is not a campaign of think-tank manifestos but of outreach to actual voters and to what actual voters — of all kinds and in all neighborhoods — want and expect.

This is campaign in the classic manner, as big an effort as i have seen a Republican do in Massachusetts since 1990, maybe even since the days of John Volpe almost 50 years ago.

Little wonder that Baker and Polito continue to raise tons more money than any of their five rivals — and raised it from Massachusetts, not out of state PACs. Great campaigns give great confidence to those with smallish donations to give, from budgets that can spare only smallish funds. Baker will have all the money he needs to bring his city campaign to every urban precinct. The campaign to win them is now “game on.” Big time.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : MONEY TALKS, AND HERE’S WHAT IT SAYS

1 Baker and Coakley BG

^ Charlie Baker(right) trails Martha Coakley (left) in votes but he has already won the money campaign. He had running mate Karyn Polito have on hand more money than all three Democrats combined.

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Recent polls of the Massachusetts governor race show that Charlie Baker and his running mate Karyn Polito have plenty of catching up to do. If Attorney General Martha Coakley becomes the Democratic nominee, as seems most likely, Baker and Polito will find themselves nine to twelve points lacking. Much of that gap represents votes now going to independents Jeff McCormack and Evan Falchuk : about 13 percent, a tally larger than the gap between Baker and Coakley. Yet there is no reason at all to suppose that all these votes would be Baker’s were the two independents not in the race.

Yesterday i analyzed the huge catching up that baker and Polito will have to do if they are to win over Martha Coakley in November. Today I will analyze the strengths of the Baker/Polito campaign. First of all is the money. Below is what the four chief governor candidates reported for the second half of june :

Baker began the month at $ 881,184.92; he raised 311,968.50o; spent 84,998; and ended the month with $ 1,108,155.42.

Baker’s running mate Karyn Polito began the month with 421,284,48; raised 123,25.62; spent 43,536.75; and ended june with 500,953.15

Add Baker’s and Polito’s ending balances together, you find $ 1,609,108.57 — a huge amount compared to numbers reported by the three Democrats :

1.Martha Coakley began mid-June with 447,673.29; raised 134,155.23′ spent 91,572.33; and ended june with 490,296.19.

2.State treasurer Seve Grossman began mid June with 896,059.85; raised 103,993.19; spent 68,156.92; and closed out with 931,897.02.

3.Don Berwick reported 199,547.55 at mid June; raised 82,343.39; spent 57,012.30; and ended with 224,878.64.

the advantages here are all to Baker and Polito, and hugely so. because :

1.The Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor also raised money, but i do not parse it because on the Democratic side there is no team. None of the three Democratic candidates for Governor knows who his or her running mate will be, and none can team up with either of the two whose names will be on the Primary ballot.

2.Baker alone has raised more money, and has more on hand, than either of the three Democrats. Adding in Polito’s totals, the team has far more money on hand than all three Democrats combined. these are telling figures, because all the money raised by the candidates so far comes almost exclusively from individuals, not PACs, and represent actual voter support.

Baker continues to lack in votes what he gains in donations. Nonetheless, his — and Karyn Polito’s money raising represents solid strength which, if it continues, can reach a kind of “critical mass” as voters begin to feel the issues strength of the Baker/Polito campaign. I have said all along that Baker possesses two critical advantages : first, he has an actual running team mate and can thus project to voters both how he will govern and why he will be able to govern. Second, he and Polito have amassed an independent power following, easy to assess through their donor list, with which to confront Speaker DeLeo when legislation is at issue.

This argument has not registered with many voters yet;l with most it night never register, as such. But baker and Polito can project it by way of their focus on management and innovation — a major campaign theme for Baker at least since his party’s convention back in March. Being able to get Speaker Robert DeLeo to advance the governor’s legislative agenda is no minor matter,. it’s the essence of being governor in more than name only. Governor Patrick has time and again had his legislative priorities rejected or amended almost beyond recognition; and Democratic Progressives have made no bones about being shut out of the Speaker’s agenda. If Baker — by his argument, his bio, or his vast fundraising base, or by all of these — can convince activist voters that he can move the Speaker as the three Democrats cannot, he can win this election, even though the polls right now do not show it.

He will have to regroup. The success that he seemed to have, at the beginning of June, in drawing city voters yo his side has faded. He needs to recover his city voter groove. He also needs to convince women voters that their health care concerns will be a priority for him. Polito will have to be the point person, a role that she is marvelously capable of. Indeed, if Baker wins, it will be because of Karyn Polito, both for her fundraising strength and her appeal to Worcester area voters and women generally.

—- 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

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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 : CANDIDATES NIGHT IN BOSTON’S WARD 3

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

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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.

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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

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

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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 : STRENGTHS OF THE CHARLIE BAKER ARGUMENT

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It doesn’t show in the polls, but Charlie Baker’s argument for why he should be the governor is a very strong one. He made that quite clear when he spoke last night to 200 people gathered at a fundraiser in his home town of Swampscott.

He spoke about great schools : “a school in which the principal has autonomy to direct the school is a great school. I saw just such a school in New Bedford. A standard school but with an excellent principal. It’s a level one school — top 20 percent performing. Why can’t we do this everywhere ? We need to leverage the strengths that are already have.”

Giving managerial autonomy to school principals is the core reform that Boston “interim’ superintendent John McDonough has put in place. It’s a reform that almost everybody supports. Baker is the first governor candidate who I have heard address this issue.

He spoke about state owned land. “There’s so much unused state-owned land in boston. Why can’t we develop it ? There are three high cost barriers to development in Boston : permitting, labor, and the land. Mayor Walsh is fixing the permitting. Labor will always be expensive. But why must the state have to make a profit on the land ? Let’s sell it low cost and develop affordable housing. It helps the City’s tax rolls and brings life to land where there was none.”

He spoke about local aid. “We cheat the cities and towns when we withhold local aid. 500 million dollars has been cut. As governor I’ll make sure that all the local aid fund goes to communities, because that’s how you build great communities. And so far I’m the only governor candidate who has made this pledge.”

You will notice what Baker did not say. Nothing about too high taxes, nothing about small government, nothing but cities, city issues, city problems.

Baker also laid down this challenge : “Both Karyn (Polito, his running mate) and I have long experience of local and state government; she in the legislature, me in the executive; and both of us have long experience in private business. No one running can match us. No one brings to this job what we do !”

He’s right. The Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Goverbor, especially, albeit well-meaning citizens, fall way short of Polito’s ten years in the legislature and service as a town selectman. Nor have any of Democratic candidates for governor, not even Don Berwick, anything like the wide-ranging experience that Baker can claim.

The Swampscott audience — all kinds and ages of people, too — loved Baker’s speech.

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^ Baker’s running mate, former Shrewsbury State Rep Karyn Polito

So what does Baker’s Swampscott pronouncement say about his chances of election ? It says a lot.

Right now he polls 30 to 32 percent of the vote; his chief potential November opponents poll an average of 37 and 49 per cent. These are daunting numbers; baker will be campaigning uphill all the way to election day. yet if he can stick to his current message, addressing city problems to city voters in a city way — and adding his quite forward ideas on technology transformation of state administration — he has a path to victory.

It may be his only path to victory. It is also exactly what the next governor needs to make his priority, his commitment, his work to accomplish. Because it is in the cities of our state that the future is being talked out, decided, and made.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#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 : THE FIGHT FOR CONTROL OF THE BAKER CAMPAIGN

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^ Charlie Baker 2013 : taking it to real people in the real world

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GOP Governor hopeful Charlie Baker tweeted at 9:55 AM this morning :

“Visiting the team at the Dimock Center to discuss health and social service issues with one of Boston’s top provider groups.”

With that tweet — the first, since the campaign began, that i have seen in which he addresses health issues, and in Boston, no less — Baker pretty much said to the GOP right-wing “Game On !”

Baker does face a fight from the Right. He faced one, as Governor nominee, in 2010 too : but then, the GOP had a Senator, Scott Brown, who wielded his power to tamp down that year’s  Tea candidate, with complete success. This time there is no Senator Scott Brown in office, and the GOP right-wing looks far stronger. Its candidate in the Special Senate election, Michael Sullivan, won 33 % of the vote in the GOP Primary. Today’s Right uses all the social media linkages. A new pressure group,” Mass Fiscal Alliance,” is importing the Cato Institute’s anti-social safety net propaganda — devious stuff — into the boil.  The Right has also spurred a ballot referendum called “Tank the Tax,” collecting well more than the 68,000-odd voter signatures needed to be printed on the 2014 state ballot. This effort expanded the right wing’s reach beyond the Michael Sullivan voters into the 15 % vote that libertarian-ish Dan Winslow won at that Senate primary and even into the 51 % garnered by non-ideological Gabriel Gomez.

Baker’s challenge has steepened in the past week thanks to two developments : ( a ) one Max Fisher, a Tea Party member from Worcester County — ground zero for right-wing doom-saying in Massachusetts — announced his candidacy for Governor and ( b ) Karyn Polito, also of Worcester County, and a former State Representative, announced her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.  Fisher’s candidacy doesn’t scare a whole lot, but Polito’s does. She was a Sullivan supporter and — so reports today’s Boston Globe — spoke at a right-wing event honoring one Allen West, whom some may remember as an outspokenly hateful one-term Florida Congressman. West is a hero to the folks who sling the word “patriot” around as if mouthing a phrase with seven bleepable letters. That Polito would even be in the same county as such a man, much less speak in  his honor, casts a pall upon the GOP’s Governor prospects, already damaged in Massachusetts by the contemptuous 2012 Presidential campaign and all but poisoned by the recent government shut down.

Yet now, on the very morning of the Boston Globe article entitled “Running Mate Issue Gets Thornier for Baker,” Baker tweets about health care and social service ! It caught my attention, and it should catch yours. Either he sees Polito as his shield against the angry right, freeing him to discuss issues that matter to the vast majority of voters, or he is sending the right — and Polito — a message that he will not be intimidated, will in fact move aggressively away from right-ism and make IT his bogey man, as it already is for most Massachusetts voters.

We will soon find out which of the two courses Baker has chosen. Meanwhile, the fight is on, as anyone following Worcester County Tea-publican’s facebook threads and anti-Obama tempests should know.  The right has its guns locked and loaded, and how ! It is itching to win one… As accomodative Republicans mix on the same floor as power-groupies and the Right wing contempt machine, the Massaachusetts GOP convention of March 22nd should be a barn-burner.

It may come down to the supporters of state Representative Geoff Diehl, of Plymouth County. Though Diehl has got aboard the “Tank the Tax” referendum drive, to great effect, I sense that his instincts favor the reasonable side. He proclaims himself a “Charles Sumner Republican” in a context strongly advocat-ive of civil rights for all, including voting rights — the original GOP message. My guess is that at the Convention, Diehl’s supporters find an alternative Lieutenant Governor nominee to Polito; and by all means they go with Baker, not Max Fisher. The Republicans of Plymouth and Norfolk Counties are not Worcester Tea guns. My sense is that they congratulate Charlie Baker speaking to Boston area voters. I also sense that Baker sees these South Shore Republicans the same way that I do. Baker has tweeted his outreach to all voters, in social settings, as well as to business groups and innovators, who he addresses no differently from how Democrats Steve Grossman and Don Berwick speak.

We might even see more of Baker out and about in Boston. Meets and greets, perhaps. Wouldn’t that be something ? Baker of course wants to steer clear of the ballot referenda. He wants not to become the grinch of welfare “reform.” He does not want to be talking “2nd Amendment.” Would you ?

No, Baker wants to talk innovation, health care, empowerment for immigrants, school reform, the huge numbers of homeless that the State now houses;  transportation improvements — all the issues that matter to most Massachusetts voters. He wants to move Massachusetts forward, not backward. The question is, will be allow himself to do that ?

We will soon find out what Baker is thinking — I may well have it wrong. In any case, don’t count out Geoff Diehl. His is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere