MAGOV14 — FORUMS, CHARLIE BAKER, & MONEY BOMBS

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^ huge SEIU candidates Forum last Saturday that Charlie Baker by-passed despite “repeated invitations sent,’ the SEIU program painfully ┬ámade known.

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Hard on the heels of last Saturday’s hugely attended SEIU Forum on the “low wage worker crisis” comes a Governor Candidate Forum at Faneuil hall this Friday. It begins at noon. The subjects this time are Energy, the Environment, and the Innovation Economy.

You would think that GOP leader Charlie Baker would want to be on stage at Faneuil hall. Its topics are his bread and butter. 28 citizen organizations are sponsoring the Forum. How can a serious candidate for Governor decline to participate ? As Baker also declined the SEIU Forum ? I ask the question rhetorically, because Baker has indeed declined both.

This is what one would expect of the rejectionist GOP, the Tea Party that looks upon Massachusetts’s broad and diverse citizenry as an enemy.

Baker isn’t Tea Party at all. Just the opposite. So what gives ? His apologists say that he is visiting people and neighborhoods everywhere; fine and good; but that is what Scott Brown did for his entire three years as our Senator, and it didn’t get him re-elected.

As I see it, by not participating in an issues Forum set up by citizen organizations that expend much time and money to make them happen, you send a message entirely negative, a disrespect for citizens who care, as well as for the issues that they care about. We’re not talking gun nuts here, or rabid anti-taxers. We’re talking citizen reform — core of what the Massachusetts GOP has always been best at.

Skipping out of such events is the wrong thing to do. It makes me question the seriousness of Charlie Baker’s candidacy.

That Baker has the GOP convention on tap this Saturday is no excuse. His nomination is assured, and it could only enhance his candidacy to speak sharply on the issues at very public Forums widespread reported in the media.

Had Baker a huge money advantage, a case could be made that he is the people’s choice already and needn’t participate in Forums where his candidacy might find itself challenged. I think this a wrong argument, because why shouldn’t his candidacy be challenged ? if Baker cannot respond to challenges — many of them — on a face to face basis, he shouldn’t be running. In any case, he does not hold a vast money lead. The six candidates — the five Democrats and Charlie Baker — reported the following donations, expenses, and ending balance for the month of February :

Charlie Baker

beginning 562,808.84
receipts 209,425.05
expenses 184,735.99
ending bal 587,497.90

Steve Grossman

beginning 1,048,299.70
receipts 91,091.67
expenses 129,780.51
ending bal 1,003,619.86

Martha Coakley

beginning 494,328.43
receipts 184,245.04
expenses 175,951.68
ending bal 502,619.79

Juliette kayyem

beginning 160,119.47
receipts 65,038.58
expenses 108.454.20
ending bal 116,701.85

Don Berwick

beginning 174,376.01
receipts 116,670.06
expenses 139,326.80
ending bal 151,819.27

Joe Avellone

beginning 142,166.73
receipts 14,718.37
expenses 35,512.55
ending bal 121,372.55

Charlie Baker raised more money than anyone in February, but not by much more than Don Berwick, and his money on hand pales in comparison to what Steve Grossman — the clear Democratic caucus winner — commands. Baker barely has more money than Martha Coakley, whose fundraising in February picked up significantly.

Baker’s donations also arise from the usual sources ; CEO’s, high powered lawyers and developers, and residents of old-line GOP towns like Boxford, Hamilton, and communities in the Mid-Cape (Cod). In his February list I couldn’t find even one donor from Baker’s home town of Swampscott. It’s possible that I missed one; but there sure weren’t many. It’s possible, too, that big name Governor GOP donors already maxed out ($ 500 per year per person) in January; I hope so, because I saw very few such on Baker’s February list.

Meanwhile, donors to the five Democrats span pretty much the entirety of diverse Massachusetts, including even CEOs. Massachusetts works best when we pair an innovative GOP Governor with an institutional boss, Democratic House Speaker. But to get that pairing, Baker will have to step it up and be BOLD. He has been a leader on many issues this time around — look at his support for the Minimum wage hike, contrary to GOP orthodoxy — but as i see it, he needs to be bold on everything. And bolder.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : The Boston Globe today opines that Charlie baker will get more than enough delegates to keep his Tea Party rival off the Primary ballot. this has been my view for at least the last ten days. It makes me all the more bewildered why Baker has avoided attending and speaking at major Citizen Forums. Is he afraid that if he does, the anti-everything GOP that he has spent the last three years buying off will rise up and snarl ?

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE FIRST MONTH

Mayor connections : Hyde Park’s Rob Consalvo at BAGLY (Boston Area Gay & Lesbian Youth) event

Mayor Tom Menino’s more or less last minute announcement that he would not be running for re-election set of what has turned out to be a mad scramble, by a hurrying multitude, to get to the “final” in which only two will face off. To date there are twenty-four (24 !) candidates signed up, making 1967’s eight look sparse. Could 24 people actually all have a chance to get past the September primary ? The answer is yes, for most: because in a four and a half month campaign, anyone can shape up. Usually a run for an office as powerful as Boston Mayor begins well in advance — at least a year before, maybe two. Indeed, as any veteran campaigner in Boston knows, your whole life — maybe also those of your parents and grandparents — goes into making you strong on vote day. Still, all that life history of connections and re-connections needs to be organized and called upon. That this year a candidate will get only 20-odd weeks, no matter who he or she is, grievously levels the odds.

Some things remain the same, however. Candidates holding current office already have made their connections and reconnectiions. They are combat ready. The first battle is to collect 3,000 certifiable nomination signatures. Large organization in place makes it easier to collect at least 3,000 signatures — and to submit them first, because if a voter signs more than one Mayoral nomination paper — and many do — only the first submitted counts. Consider also this : for 24 candidates to qualify for the ballot, at least 72,000 signatures will need to count. that is fully 20% plus of ALL Boston voters. The City has probably never seen such a huge street-level effort.

Probably half the 24 will actually make it onto the ballot. So what comes next ? Already the major eight or so candidates are running all over the city; marching parades, meeting and greeting at eateries, shaking hands at festivals and crowd gatherings, congratulating park League sports teams; holding coffee parties in neighborhoods; advancing an agenda. But does any of this even matter on vote day ? Not many voters give their vote, in a multi-candidate field, to a candidate they happen to meet once, or even twice. Likely they have already known at least one of the “major 8” already and have interacted with him or her. It is difficult for another candidate to overtop a voter’s long experience of another candidate. Truly, in local politics, it’s an axiom that the longer that one has known a candidate, the more likely he or she is to vote for that candidate.

The force of this axiom is likely why the “major 8′ are spending so much time right now acmpaigning to communitiues of voters — LGBT and allies, Haitians, Cape Verdeans, Asians, “new Boston — who for the most part do NOT have long connection with Boston politics. If the long-connected voters — the “traditional” voters of Wards 6, 7, 16, 19, 20, and half of 18; and the “new Boston” voters of Wards 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 21 — are pretty much already “in the bag” for one or another of the “majors,” then it makes sense for them to seek out whatever they can bag up from the less connected communities.

Less connected voters also means “issues” voters. Voters who may not be able to say to a “major”, “geez, I knew your Daddy back in the West End — great guy,” for example, can judge that candidate’s stand on the issues. Thus the rolling out of agendas, that we have already seen from the canniest candidates: Dan Conley (gun control; citywide casino referendum), Felix Arroyo (labor rights), and Marty Walsh (education).

Canny candidates have also sought, smartly, to demonstrate that however they may be “based” in a long-connected community, they have the respect and support of leaders of the less connected. thus Charlotte Golar Richie, African-American of Dorchester, parades endorsements by State Reps. Michael Moran of Ward 22 and Aaron Michlewitz of Wards 3 and 8, and the Callahan Brothers of Ward 2. Likewise Marty Walsh, Irish-American from Ward 16, has the support of openly gay State Rep. Liz Malia of Jamaica Plain. City Councillor John R Connolly, too, strongly based in ward 20, has a house-sign campaign going on all over the city. Almost certainly the other “majors” will, if they can, announce similar cross-community support.

Ward 16’s Marty Walsh greeting City Life / Viuda Urbana supporters at the SEIU Hall.

This, then, is the exciting phase of the Boston mayor campaign. watching the city’s long-connected candidates dig deeply into its less-connected communities enhances the city’s togetherness and makes everyone feel that he or she counts in the halls of power. It is “retail politics” at its truest. It’s also a campaign phase that didn’t exist until Ray Flynn made it happen in 1983, as a South Boston guy campaigning among Jamaica Plain lefties. Before Flynn, Boston mayor races were combats of the powerful versus the powerful — the less so didn’t matter much and were, in fact, often pushed out of the city entirely by “urban renewal.” And Flynn himself had already worked with Jamaica Plain activists on Logan Airport issues, specifically approach run overflights of residential areas. This year, the “majors’ are seeking out the less connected voters no matter what, for their own sakes. This year, the less connected are being welcomed into the halls of city power.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere