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Now what?

Congratulations to Scott Brown and his campaign team for a very impressive win last night.  They ran a fantastic campaign and, quite frankly, deserved to win.  A few take-aways and thoughts after a very disappointing evening in Massachusetts.

1. Healthcare is not dead – Despite what you may have heard/read today, the fight to fix our healthcare system is far from over.  I would expect that, in the next few days, the House will take up the Senate bill and will pass it with no changes, thus negating the need for another Senate vote.  Failing that, they will be forced to chop up the bill into smaller parts (something the American people seem to want anyway) and pass what they can.  This allows them to claim some level of victory and move on to other issues voters seem to care more about right now.  It would be a huge mistake on their part for them to try to force through a bill before Scott Brown is seated – it would send a terrible message to the country and would be political suicide. 

2. 41st vote – I don’t think there are words sufficient for me to describe my frustration over the perception out there that, because the Republicans now have 41 votes, the Democrats can’t do anything despite still holding 59 of 100 seats in the Senate.  As Ann Woolner notes, in her fabulous piece in Business Week, “These days political parties are so polarized, so short on ideological moderates and so bent on each other’s demise that compromise on hot-button issues is the rarity.”  With one party being hell-bent on destroying the President, no matter the cost to ordinary Americans, and using filibusters at every turn, 60 seats has become critical to accomplishing almost anything.   The Founding Fathers intended a simple majority to be needed to pass legislation and, as Woolner points out, “If the Founders wanted a supermajority for everything, they would have said so.”  The fact that it is a well-accepted conclusion that, because Brown won, the President’s agenda is dead, is a sad comment about the state of this country.

3. The President – Make no mistake about it.  This was a loss for President Obama and is another reminder that the American public is extremely anxious and impatient.  Obama has only been in office for a year – not nearly enough time to fix the problems he inherited – but people are hurting and they want and need real results.  In some ways this loss is a good thing for him.  It drives home the challenges the administration is facing and gives them 11 months to right the ship before the all-important mid-term elections.  They must find a way to make people feel better about the direction of the country and focus on important issues like job creation.  In a recent poll, 75% of Americans said that they like Obama personally.  That provides an exceptional opportunity for him to get out there and rebuild public confidence in his administration.

4. 2010 and beyond – In Massachusetts, the Democrats lost the mantle of the being the party of the people.  Scott Brown was engaging and convinced people he was an everyman who would look out for their interests.  On the other hand, Martha Coakley, until the end, came off as aloof and entitled.  There is a lesson here about how to run campaigns, even if you are the front-runner.  Going forward, Democrats have to get back to the populist message that made them so successful in 2006 and 2008 and remind voters of who got us into the mess we are in now.  All is not lost – far from it – but there are important lessons to be learned from Massachusetts (and VA and NJ) and how well those lessons are learned will affect what happens later this year.  It remains to be seen if MA, VA and NJ are accurate measurements of the mood of the country or it is simply an example of less than stellar candidates running poor campaigns.

5. Remember who elected you – I would encourage Senator-elect Brown to remember that it was largely on the backs of independent voters that he sailed into office.  You can bet the people of Massachusetts will be watching very closely and, in 2012, will not think twice about casting him aside should he prove to be more focused on the President failing than on making the country better.

Martha Coakley for Senate

Scott Brown is correct that this is “the people’s seat, and “not “Teddy’s seat.”  The Democratic party is not entitled to win the election.  Neither is the Republican party.  The person who should follow Senator Kennedy is the person best suited to improve the lives of those he or she represents.  In this election, that person is Martha Coakley.

This is a critical race for the nation as well as the commonwealth. The results will impact federal health care legislation and have far-reaching consequences for all of us.  With so much misinformation out there, what’s a voter to do?

If you look past the campaign rhetoric and examine the policies, accomplishments and tactics of each candidate, the choice is easy. Scott Brown, despite his claims to be an independent thinker, has accomplished little legislatively to support this claim.  On Beacon Hill, Brown has made a name for himself as a staunchly conservative voice.  He has consistently used his voice to discredit solutions proposed by other legislators, rather than to be constructive and improve proposals and initiatives.  He has proved that he would take the same approach to Washington saying that he would be “proud to be the 41st vote” against the health care bill – he did not say that he will work to improve the bill, but that he will block the bill.  It seems clear that, should he win, he will be a Jeff Sessions Republican, always voting with his party, not independently like a Susan Collins Republican or even a Lindsey Graham Republican.

As a strong believer in a woman’s right to choose, I also cannot get past the fact that, in 2005, Brown sponsored an amendment that would have allowed medical personnel to deny emergency contraceptives to rape victims.  The fact that he now has his daughter attack Coakley for reminding voters of that is insulting.

Brown wants us to take a chance on him and, while he is correct that we can kick him out in three years if we don’t like him, the fact remains that three years is plenty of time for him to ensure that Republicans can block progress for the sake of politics.

Martha Coakley, despite running a less-than-inspired campaign, has demonstrated throughout her career intellectual chops and a willingness to stand firm in the face of opposition.  In Washington, she will be an independent thinker who does not automatically vote along party lines.  She has significant experience and has shown a strong commitment to going after those who violate the public trust in her role as Attorney General.   She has worked to coordinate plans for public safety and has gone after those who seek to harm Americans. Her range of experiences will benefit her well in Washington and her commitment to progress will benefit all of us.

I understand that many Brown votes are coming from people trying to send a message to Washington.  However, I submit that the best way to send a message of discontent is to elect someone who will be focused on getting things done and making the country better.  Throughout this campaign, Scott Brown has shown a willingness to lie, exaggerate and distort to get your vote.  And his career has given us every indication he would carry that willingness to Washington.  A vote for Scott Brown is a vote against progress and shows support for the partisan gridlock that has defined Washington for too long.

If we are sick of Senators who are more interested in holding press conferences than affecting progress, let’s elect someone who has proven she will ask the tough questions, work proactively in the legislature and hold people accountable for their actions.  That is what Martha Coakley has done throughout her career and that is what I am convinced she will do as our next Senator.

Please vote next Tuesday and please cast your ballot for Martha Coakley.

If you are unsure of where you should go to vote, you can find out by residential location, at the Election Division website, here:

Link for 1/8 – What was the point Paul?

Martha Coakley held an event yesterday where the only story should have been the very vocal support she is receiving from members of the Kennedy family.  However, due to a really poor decision by interim US Senator Paul Kirk and the Coakley campaign, another (and more damaging) story came out of the event.  When the legislature reversed state law to allow Governor Patrick to appoint a temporary successor to the late Senator Kennedy, one of the agreements was that that person, whomever it should turn out to be, would stay neutral in the special election – specifically the replacement was blocked from “endorsing any candidate in the special election.”  It is not legally binding, but Kirk’s decision shows an utter disregard for the agreement that made his service possible and helps further the impression that we can not trust our elected representatives.  While Mr. Kirk is right that “as a former Democratic chairman, it’s probably no surprise what side I’d be on” leaving it at that misses the real point.  It is  really unfortunate that Kirk “did not think twice” before agreeing to violate the resolution passed by our state government.  The fact that this endorsement, by his own admission, won’t make a huge difference in the race makes the story even worse and is a black mark on the Coakley team.  Why risk the negative publicity and further sow the seeds of mistrust, that are already such a part of politics, by making a move that won’t have much impact?  How

The larger point, of course, is what this does to Martha Coakley and her campaign.  There is already concern amongst the electorate that we are going to be electing someone, essentially for life, who we do not really know.  Between her refusal to debate, one on one, her only “real” opponent (sorry Joe Kennedy), her incredible lack of campaign events and the scarcity of her ads, we are left to guess about who we will likely be electing to represent us.  And accepting the endorsement of someone who should not be endorsing doesn’t say good things about her willingness to honor agreements or her ability to recognize and stand up for what is right (even if it might put her at odds with powerful people).  Maybe that’s harsh.  But, with little other evidence to go on, voters are forced to draw conclusions from what we can see.  And, in this case, I don’t like what I’m seeing.

Link for 1/5 – A debate

With election day rapidly approaching the three candidates vying to replace the late Senator Kennedy are facing off this morning at 9:00 AM in a radio debate.  If you are somewhere where you can watch/listen just click here  

If you can’t watch at 9, the station will be making a podcast available shortly after the debate concludes.  State Senator Brown comes in to the debate with some momentum (having picked up the endorsements of Senator John McCain and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling).  His best chance, though, to close the lead currently enjoyed by Attorney General Coakley is to go on the attack and try to force her into making a mistake.  In some ways, making her beat herself is the only way he has a shot of beating her.  Two high-profile endorsements mean that people are paying attention…now the question becomes can he take advantage of that?

Link for 1/4 – McCain endorses Brown…via youtube

Senator McCain has made his voice heard in the upcoming special election between Scott Brown, Martha Coakley  and Joe Kennedy (no relation).  Not surprisingly, he has chosen to throw his support behind Scott Brown, the Republican.  This endorsement means far less today, in terms of siphoning off Coakley voters, then it would have had McCain not alienated so many moderates during the Presidential campaign.  However, it does get Brown in the news and helps him be seen as a legitimate candidate, both locally and nationally.  This should help his fundraising (since it helps him to combat the strategy of “inevitability” that Martha Coakley’s campaign is pushing) which could help him build name recognition and get his message out to voters.  Just as politicians don’t want to back a loser, people don’t want their money to go to waste so, when a large national figure such as McCain decides a candidate is worth publicly supporting, it can help build momentum.  That does bring new votes and changes minds and therein lies the true value of this endorsement.

Capuano and Brown for Senate

After 3 months of campaigning, primary day has finally arrived. If you live in Massachusetts PLEASE PLEASE vote. I don’t care who you vote for, only that you vote. This is a critical first step in electing a US Senator who will be casting votes on issues that will affect all of us. If you want more information on any of the candidates, take a look at my Candidate Tuesdays, visit the campaign websites, do google searches – there is plenty out there. I’ve been teasing it for a while and now I am ready to reveal who I have decided to vote for. However, before I get to that, I have to say that this was one of the hardest electoral decisions I have ever had to make. I do not share the frustration that many feel with the caliber of candidate – I feel like we have 6 very strong candidates who all bring unique and important credentials to this race. However, we can only vote for one and this is what I have decided.

Democrats – Mike Capuano
With four strong candidates, my decision has come to down to four key characteristics – experience, accessibility, integrity and potential influence. All four candidates are impressive and I believe any would make a great senator. But I can only vote for one and Congressman Capuano is my choice.

Capuano is the only candidate on the Democratic side who has any legislative experience whatsoever. He understands how the process works and there won’t be much of a learning curve for him. With so many critical issues facing the Senate, a steep learning curve is not an option. He already knows many of the players and will be able to jump right into negotiations and committee responsibilities.

This was the great untold story of the true value of Senator Kennedy. Any constituent who called his office has a story of Senator Kennedy just getting things done. No request was too small and, no matter how big or famous he was, he never forgot his true responsibility to represent those who elected him. Anyone who is currently represented by Congressman Capuano will tell you that he has that same understanding and commitment to his community. That is such an important trait and Capuano has it.

Normally I don’t put much stock in who endorses who since it can be very political.. However, the list of people who are supporting Capuano is extraordinary. Especially when one considers that Former Governor Dukakis decided, for the first-time, to endorse a candidate in a state-wide primary. It is an impressive list and speaks to the feeling that people “in the know” have about him. To have a non-front runner accumulate such a list is impressive and says a lot to me.

In thinking about this category, I can’t help but, once again, think about Senator Kennedy. After his death we heard countless stories about Kennedy’s ability to work with anyone he needed to work with in order to get things done. Capuano has that same ability. When Nancy Pelosi tapped him to head up ethics reform in the house (a MAJOR priority for her) many reformists were skeptical of his ability to see the project through. However, after working with him and seeing the results he got they were singing a different tune. In fact, many of those groups are supporting his Senate bid now. Colleagues really respect him and I believe he will be able to have an immediate impact influencing the critical legislation in the Senate.

Republicans – Scott Brown
This really isn’t much of a race. While I admire the business experience of Jack E. Robinson, Scott Brown has all the tools to be a complete US Senator. If I was electing a business representative I would support Robinson. However, since a Senator deals with many different issues, Brown is a better choice.

Whoever you like, PLEASE vote!!!!! Reports say that only about 4% of registered voters in MA are planning to vote today which is terrible. This is a big election and I encourage you to make your voice heard!

Candidate Tuesday #10 – Endorsements (Updated 12/7 to reflect President Clinton)

Endorsements are a funny thing.  When they come from unions or other large organizations they provide foot solidiers to help the campaign in the final days.  When they come from individuals they get the candidate’s name in the news in a (usually) positive light – always a good thing.  For undecided voters they can be that final tipping point for or against a particular candidate.  If you are between two candidates and three people you really respect endorse one of the two…well, that can help push you to a final choice.  By the same token if someone you generally disagree with makes an endorsement that can swing you to someone else.  So, while they are not a substitute for really learning as much as you can about your options, they are a good way to make or confirm your final choice.    Coming on Monday, some of our fellow citizens will share who they are supporting and why  – I encourage all of you to consider posting your choice and reasoning in the comments section of that post. Together we can help any undecided voters make up their mind! 

In the meantime, however, here are some of the notable endorsements of this primary season.

Martha Coakley – Click here for a full list
Former President Bill Clinton
Former Lt. Governor Evelyn Murphy
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas
Many mayors including Kim Driscoll (Salem) and Setti Warren (Newton)
Many members of the State Senate and State House of Reps including Senate President Therese Murray and Senate Majority Leader Frederick Berry
Emily’s List
Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus
Massachusetts Chiefs of Police
National Association of Police Organizations
More than 50 different unions and professional organizations

Mike Capuano – Click here for a full list
Former Governor Mike Dukakis
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Congressmen Ed Markey, Barney Frank, Stephen Lynch, Jim McGovern, Richard E. Neal, John Olver, John Tierney
First Lady Diane Patrick
Former First Lady Kitty Dukakis
Many members of the State Senate and State House of Reps including Marian Walsh and Stephen Buoniconti
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Massachusetts, AFL-CIO AND Massachusetts Teachers Association
Veterans and Military Families for Progress (VMFP)
Boston Herald

Steve Pagliuca – Click here for more on Steve Pagliuca
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge, Ray Allen and many other prominent members of the Celtics have appeared at Pagliuca events
A Pagliuca spokesman, when asked by the Boston Globe to identify any major endorsements responded “endorsements are not a focus of our campaign.” His website touts the fact that they are “winning the endorsements of thousands of Democrats across the state.”

Alan Khazei – Click here for more on Alan Khazei
General Wesley Clark
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Max Kennedy
Blue Mass Group
Boston Globe

Scott Brown – Click here for more on Scott Brown
ALL GOP members of the Massachusetts State Senate and State House of Representatives
Boston Globe
Boston Herald

Jack E. Robinson – Click here for more on Jack E. Robinson
No notable endorsements…yet

Link for 11/12/09 – Oh Mike, Mike, Mike

Well that was quick.  Just days after voting for a healthcare bill that included a provision restricting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions AND strongly criticizing Martha Coakley for her “foolish” opposition, Congressman Capuano has reversed course.  Now he says that he will not vote for the bill when it returns to the house if it has the abortion clause in it.  

There is no doubt that this is an extremely difficult issue and, as a good friend of mine points out, “An inflexible politician is more dangerous than one who changes their opinions.”  However, such a major shift so soon after a vote and some strong statements is concerning.  This sure smacks of doing the right thing politically, rather than doing the right thing for the community.  Look, I’ve gone back and forth on where I stand on this question and have thought a lot about whether or not I’d vote for the bill in the current form.  However, before you make this important societal issue a part of your political game, it would be nice if you were comfortable with your position. 

Congressman Capuano, stick with what you believe in and, if you are going to change your mind, you better make sure you don’t call your opponent’s position “manna from heaven.”  I’ll tell you what manna from heaven would be – a politician who votes a certain way because it is the right thing to do and not because it is what will get them a promotion.

Candidate Tuesday #7 – Jack E. Robinson

We have a new player.  Apparently there is more than one Republican in this state and now Scott Brown has some opposition in his path to being his party’s nominee.  But, before we meet Mr. Robinson, the past few days have been quite interesting in Democratic primary world.  The front-runner, Attorney General Martha Coakley, announced the she could not support a health care bill that included any language restricting access to abortions.  (For those who haven’t heard, the house bill includes a provision that essentially extends a previously passed stipulation that government money can not be used to pay for abortions.  What this means now is that, if you have the ‘public option’ as your provider or any government subsidized insurance, abortions will not be covered…except under extraordinary circumstances).  I agree with Coakley that the amendment is unfair and unreasonable but I have hard time with denying any coverage to millions of Americans because the coverage they will get isn’t perfect. 

All three of her opponents quickly pounced on this policy disagreement (finally, we have one!) with Capuano saying “I find it interesting and amazing, and she would have stood alone among all the pro-choice members of Congress, all the members of the Massachusetts delegation…She claims she wants to honor Ted Kennedy’s legacy on health care. It’s pretty clear that a major portion of this was his bill…If she’s not going to vote for any bill that’s not perfect, she wouldn’t vote for any bill in history. She would have voted against Medicare, the Civil Rights bill. . . . Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington.’’

Alan Khazei added that ““If the House Democrats listened to Martha Coakley instead of [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, health care would be dead right now…She’s going to be the person that prevents universal health care for every person in this country. This is a big deal. This was the cause of Senator Kennedy’s life.’’  Pagliuca said that ““casting a no vote would be to side with [Senator] Joe Lieberman and the insurance companies that want to kill health care reform.”

So now we have a substantial difference, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the waning days of the campaign.

Ok, with that out-of-the-way, let’s learn about Jack Robinson.  This election marks the third time Robinson has run for state-wide office and, so far, he is 0 for 2.  He lost to Senator Kennedy in 2000 and Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin in 2002.  In that race he did garner about 25% of the vote (which is much better than his showing against Kennedy).  In addition he ran against Congressman Lynch for his US Congress seat in 2006 and lost. 

Robinson is a lawyer and business man who is a former executive at Eastern Airlines (and was the youngest airline president in modern US aviation history), before leaving to start his own cell phone company.  Robinson calls himself a progressive Republican (and, unlike many others, seems to actually be one) who supports same-sex marriage and full rights for the LGBT community.  In addition, he professes to be an expert on job creation and business management from his many years in the private sector.  He supports expanding charter schools and merit pay for teachers and wants to provide full scholarships to all college students who commit to serving America for four years.  Finally, he has come out with a 12-point plan to solve the healthcare crisis in this country and is opposed to the bill that just passed the house.

Robinson is perhaps best known for a dossier he released during his 2000 Senate run where he owned up to anything and everything in his background that might provide fodder for negative campaigning.  The release of this information (including restraining orders, drunken driving and other citations and the like) caused the Republican establishment in the state (including then-Governor Paul Cellucci) to disown him as their candidate.  A spokesperson for his campaign said, about the “Robinson Report” that this is “an issue that has been addressed years ago and we’re looking forward to moving forward with a positive campaign and addressing today’s issues like bringing jobs to Massachusetts.”

 You can visit his campaign website here (NOTE: I have received word from the Robinson campaign that the original site I posted is not the correct site.  So, for those of you who have already clicked the link, please visit this new (and much better) site)

Candidate Tuesday #6 – Mike Capuano

Sorry for the tardiness of my Candidate Tuesday. But, fear not oh wonderful readers.  Your Candidate “Tuesday” has arrived. 

As a reminder, this is where we are so far:

Alan Khazei
Stephen Pagliuca
Martha Coakley
Michael Capuano

Scott Brown

Joe Kennedy (no, not that one. A different one.)

Let’s meet Congressman Mike Capuano.   57 years old, Congressman Capuano has represented the 8th District of Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives for 10 years.  It is a seat once held by President John F. Kennedy Jr. and, right before Capuano, Joe Kennedy.  Will he, once again, occupy a seat made famous by a Kennedy?  

As Congressman, Capuano is perhaps best known for his work to increase international aid for developing countries and for his advocacy on behalf of the victims of the genocide and slavery in Sudan.  He has been instrumental in ensuring support for new funding bills aimed at helping poor African nations.  His focus on international affairs led him to co-found Congressional Caucuses on Sudan and Korea and continue to demonstrate real leadership on issues facing the rest of the world.  In addition, Capuano has received a 96% rating by the National Education Association and has done a lot of work to ensure all students have access to quality educational programs and good schools and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

In his career in the House, Capuano has been a solidly Democratic voice and his voted with his party more than 98% of the time.   The most notable split has been in the area of immigration, with Capuano voting, 2006, in support of constructing a fence through four states in the Southeastern part of the USA.   The Washington Post has compiled a solid profile of his voting record that is worth checking out.  One of the downsides of running for office as a Senator or Representative is that there is a ton of information out there on how you have voted and what you showed up for.  It is part of the reason Senators are so rarely elected President.  But, since it is there, it is worth looking at.

In addition, Congressman Capuano has always been very focused on constituent services and on being there for whatever needs his community has.  In that vein, he has been very successful in bringing home money for local projects.  He is an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq and has voted against the Patriot Act.  Finally, he headed the transition when Democrats took the majority in the House in 2006 and chaired the bipartisan Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement which resulted in the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Mike Capuano certainly has the most relevent experience of any of the candidates and seems to have the Kennedy desire to help his community and work to support their needs.  The fact that he has directly followed a Kennedy before leads me to believe that he has the ability to convince people he is the best to carry on their legacy.  His biggest barrier is name recognition and overcoming that obstacle will be key to his having any shot to win the nomination.

You can visit his campaign webpage here