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 : FIVE VISIONS FIVE AT SEIU CANDIDATES FORUM

 

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^ the Forum Five (photo courtesy of Chris Condon of SEIU local 509)

Since I last saw the Democratic Five at a candidates’ Forum — about six weeks ago — all have sharpened their profiles considerably. On stage at the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) candidates Forum today, there was lots of specifics, even some debate, and only a touch or two of the vague.

Specific, the five needed to be today. The SEIU’s members do the campaign grunt work and they have an agenda that they insist upon — and which they’ve proven, time and time again, they have the muscle to see enacted. Every one of the five badly wanted the SEIU endorsement. They want its game-on. They need it, and they made their need plain to the gathered attendees — at least 500 strong, a massive showing on a Saturday morning.

In return, SEIU members know which candidates have a chance to win the race and which ones probably don’t. So how did the five do ?

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First, Steve Grossman.

Grossman reminded the gathering — maybe too many times — that they had endorsed him before, and he had always kept his promises and “stood with” them on strike lines and issues fights. He gave voice to more specific agenda items than any of his rivals — policy points are his great strength. But he missed the point of one question — about restoring rights to ex convicts : the right the questioner wanted to hear about was voting right restoration — and, addressing the minimum wage, he said that “I will veto any minimum wage bill that includes an unemployment insurance give-back !” As this give-back is Speaker Robert DeLeo’s price for supporting the minimum wage hike, Grossman opened up the door to a running fight with the Speaker — who, like his predecessor during the entirety of Deval Patrick’s two Governor terms has proven that the Speaker always wins such fights. And that any Governor who fights him comes away weakened. Grossman either is just blowing smoke here, or he has ceded the entire minimum wage issue to Charlie Baker, the almost certain GOP nominee, who has said — no ifs ands or buts — that he accepts Speaker DeLeo’s give-back and can thus get the $ 11.00 per hour minimum wage hike enacted. (Baker has also made the issue of expanding the earned income tax credit his own, and it was interesting to see that at least two of the candidates, Coakley and Avellone, mentioned expanding earned income credits. Two months ago, no Democrat at Forums mentioned it at all.)

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Second, Martha Coakley.

Coakley campaigns with a light touch and an eyes-up grin that often feels snarky. She took a middle route at the Forum : not endorsing driver’s licenses for undocumented people, refusing to grant bargaining rights point-blank to public defender lawyers, sliding away from Don Berwick’s single payer health insurance call. Coakley played careful lawyer : she made clear that she agrees with SEIU’s wage hike and immigrant rights agenda, but maybe not on as all-in a basis as SEIU would like to see. Coakley spoke personally about mental health issues, and with real life stories about income equality; and before the Forum began she posed for many pictures with SEIU’ers who smiled like crazy to be photographed with her. She even said “we have to improve the economy for everybody.”

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Third, Juliette Kayyem.

Kayyem continues to converse at times, in a Forum setting where conversation wanders off message. But she has become much, much more forensic in her approach; at SEIU she made big, clear points addressing criminal justice reform; she rejected Don Berwick’s single payer call, saying “even if it can be done, it can’t happen until 2018. we need a Governor for right now.” Obviously, Kayyem has realized that sweetness and glamour — which she owns in this race — must bring toughness and advocacy aboard. Yet the generalities continue. She said “Massachusetts has done well but we can do better.” Better how ? She posed an actual plan: “three points…Save, share, and grow. save money in criminal justice spending. share it by setting up a ‘green bank.’ Grow by investing in education and comprehensive immigration reform.”

Kayyem stressed her immigrant roots; that she’s a mother and wife; and — taking full advantage of being two decades younger than her rivals — that she is “the young generation ready to govern.”

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Fourth, Don Berwick.

Berwick has no peer when discussion turns to health care. If he were running for Massachusetts Commissioner of Health and Welfare, he’d win by acclamation. He decries our state’s health care failings — its waste, high cost, inequities — as rigorously as Baker is likely to do. Berwick also speaks to income inequity and the “low wage crisis,” as SEIU’s Forum hosts put it, as passionately as anyone, maybe more. But Berwick overshoots the progressive mark. His solution to the health care system’s failings is single payer — a worthy idea, but it isn’t going to happen soon, and as Kayyem said back at him, “we are electing a Governor for now.” Berwick also seeks a graduated income tax (though he didn’t call it that), an idea that Massachusetts voters quite a while ago rejected in two separate referendums and which would hardly entice to our State the businesses which every Forum candidate, Berwick included, say that Massachusetts needs.

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Lastly, Joe Avellone.

Avellone speaks authoritatively about the state’s drug abuse crisis, about recovery and re-entry, and about CORI reform. nd like all the Forum candidates, he supports raising the minimum wage and protection of low-wage workers’ bargaining tights, including extending them to hospital workers who don’t know have that right. Still, Avellone barely seems a possible Governor rather than what he has been, a town selectman. At no place in the Forum did he address the big picture, the massive responsibility sphere that we entrust to the state’s Governor. The Big Dogs of the Legislature would eat Avellone for lunch. So might the State House lobbyists. Avellone made some friends at the Forum; I doubt he won many members’ endorsement.

It was too bad that Charlie Baker wasn’t at the Forum. He had a delegate rally of his own to attend, in Saugus; and the GOP convention takes place next weekend. Still, an opportunity was missed. Baker could have addressed the health care issue authoritatively; the minimum wage and earned income credit; criminal justice reform; homelessness; schools reform; and jobs and innovation — even bargaining rights. It would have been an opportunity to expand his personal reach where a reformist candidate needs be : directly into the most important front of the labor movement, the fight against low-wage situations and all the burdens that low wage work puts on workers and taxpayers alike.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere