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Well it was fun while it lasted

As you can see from this article on boston.com Canton Selectman Bob Burr has ended his bid for Ted Kennedy’s United States Senate seat.  He is withdrawing after failing to collect the 10,000 signatures he needed to get his name on the ballot.  With his quitting the race, and endorsing Scott Brown, the Republican party in Massachusetts is formally rallying around State Senator Brown.  This could help him, especially if the Democratic primary ends up being a divisive one.   

However, the negative to not having a primary battle is you don’t have the chance to get the skeletons out of the closet early and ‘perfect’ your messaging…any major revelations (if there are any) will likely happen closer to election day when it is harder to recover.  If Gennifer Flowers had come out during the general election rather than during the primary, it is likely Clinton would not have had a real chance to win.  As it was, he had months to respond to it and, by November, any questions of character did not affect the election results in a meaningful way.

Link for 10/19/09 – There was a voter forum? Really?

If Senate candidates hold a voter forum and no one notices, did it still happen?  The 4 Democrats vying to replace Senator Kennedy appeared yesterday at Merrimack College and fielded questions on a variety of topics.  The Gloucester Times has a decent review of the event.  To me, the biggest thing to come out of the forum was that Attorney General Coakley and Mr. Pagliuca both indicated that, while they didn’t like the idea, they would be open to more troops in Afghanistan depending on what they heard from Generals.  However, Mr. Khazei and Congressman Capuano were more firm in their positions that the US not commit additional troops to the country.  Beyond that, there were not too many substantive differences to report on.

Candidate Tuesday #5 – Scott Brown

We are one week closer to the primary and the battles are starting to heat up.  Once we finish profiling each candidate, we will spend the remaining weeks looking at specific issues and exploring where the candidates stand on those issues.  I have to be honest – the more I learn about the candidates, the less sure I am about which one I want to support.  Going to be very interesting as they start to hit each other on the issues and attempt to differentiate themselves.  Already Capuano is starting in on Coakley about the death penalty.  Two more weeks of profiles and then we’ll really get into the meat of the race.

Democrats:
Alan Khazei
Stephen Pagliuca
Martha Coakley
Michael Capuano

Republicans:
Scott Brown
Bob Burr

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

Ok, so today we are going to look at the second Republican in the race – Scott Brown.   Senator Brown is 50 years old and currently represents Norfolk, Bristol & Middlesex Districts in the Massachusetts State Senate.   In his personal life, he is best known for his daughter, Ayla Brown, who was a semi-finalist on American Idol, his wife, WCVB reporter Gail Huff and his, umm…interesting nude spread in Cosmo magazine (maybe NSFW) when he was in his early 20s and a student at BC. 

As senator, he serves on several important committees including Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure; Education; Higher Education; Election Laws; Public Safety & Homeland Security; Veterans & Federal Affairs.  Throughout his career he has striven to use his position to increase transparency and hold the government accountable for excess spending and waste.  He really believes in the ‘power of the people’ and advocates a limited governmental role in citizens’ lives.  In addition, he is very focused on ethics reform and has introduced bills banning convicted felons from serving as lobbyists and stripping elected officials of their chair positions if they are under investigation.  However, he is perhaps most vocal for veterans rights and the rights of victims of sexual abuse.  On both issues he has taken a lead role in working to make their lives easier and ensure they get the support services they need.

Among his other focus areas are advocating for a strong military, reducing the national debt, ensuring everyone has access to quality healthcare (but without governmental involvement) and encouraging the purchase of American-made products through sales tax rebates on American goods and incentives for small businesses to work together and expand.  On other social issues, Senator Brown has demonstrated an interest in protecting the enviroment through increased focus on alternative energies and green building; supports civil unions but is opposed to gay marriage; believes in recruiting strong teachers who have diverse life experiences (and wants to provide teachers with free in-state college tuition); is generally pro-choice, but has a very mixed record on the subject.   Finally Senator Brown is 29 -year member of the Massachusetts National Guard, where he currently holds the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, has been recognized as a “Guardian of  Small Business” by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and received the 2004 “Public Servant of the Year” Award from the United Chamber of Commerce, for his leadership in reforming the state’s sex offender laws and protecting the rights of victims.

In summary, Senator Brown is a truly moderate Republican and one who could well be a formidable opponent in a general election.  He seems to be an independent thinker who is running partially because he believes that having one party in power is bad government (no matter which party it is).  It is especially noteworthy that, in his recent re-election race, he got more than 55% of the vote, despite President Obama and Senator Kerry receiving more than 60% of the vote in his districts.  People seem to see him as someone who is accessable and reasonable.  Those traits could serve him well and he continues to build his campaign.

You can learn more about Senator Brown at his campaign website.

Candidate Tuesday #4 – Alan Khazei

Well, I think we may finally have the full field.  You can look back at old Candidate Tuesdays to see who isn’t running if you want.  But, it appears, the contenders are (with links to their Candidate Tuesday page):

Democrats:
Alan Khazei
Stephen Pagliuca
Martha Coakley

Michael Capuano

Republicans:
Scott Brown
Bob Burr

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

Not as big a field as many, including myself, had expected.  But there are some good candidates there and, at least on the Democratic side, it should be a really competitive race.  I don’t know that Bob Burr can beat Scott Brown (though I am thrilled that so many people interested in Selectman Burr has visited this blog) but you never know.  So that is the field – now let’s meet Alan Khazei.

Alan Khazei is 48 years old and is best known for being the co-founder and CEO of City Year, a national service program for young adults.  Started with his roommate Michael Brown, while both were at Harvard, City Year has placed thousands of dedicated 18-24 year olds in cities across the country and in South Africa.  Khazei’s commitment to public service has earned him many accolades including being named one of the top 25 executives by US News and World Report in 2006 and one of the “Bostonians making a Difference” by the Boston Globe Magazine.   In 2003, he also spearheaded the “Save Americorps” battle and organized more than 100 hours of congressional testimony, in an ultimetly successful effort to convince Congress to restore Americorps funding.

In addition (and a really strong selling point in this election) he was named one of the  “Executives of the Year” in 2008 by Nonprofit Times because of “ServiceNation,” a huge summit held in New York City on 9/11/08 feautring then-candidates John McCain and Barack Obama (among hundreds of other influential leaders).  The event was broadcast on national TV and the hundred million people who saw it witnessed both Obama and McCain pledge to expand national service.  The event, and subsequent work by Khazei and ServiceNation, led to the passage, in 2009, of the “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act” – the largest expansion of public service since Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. 

Khazei has not held elective office and has not been a strong advocate for/against many of the issues facing our country.  One can find some clues as to what he believes by looking at a piece he penned (typed?) for the Huffington Post where he called for ‘big citizenship over big government’ and spoke of his focus on a ‘New Patriotism” where entrepeneurs use technology to innovate and all three sectors (public, private, nonprofit) build meaningful partnerships in order to create positive and effective solutions.  Finally, Khazei has announced that he will not take any money from PACs or lobbyists which, while making it harder for him to match resources with some of the other candidates, will certainly curry favor amongst a segment of voters. 

In summary, it will be very interesting to see if Khazei can build a strong grassroots coalition and feed off their energy in the campaign.  At some point, he will have to clearly articulate where he stands on some important issues (I am really curious to see him talk about how he sees cross-sector partnerships playing a role in various reform effots) and show that he can be a well-rounded candidate.  If he can do that well, and raise enough money from small donations, he could well rise to the top of the field.  Should be very interesting to watch.

Check out his campaign site here.

The next Senator

So, I have been a bit behind the 8-ball on talking about the interim senator debate we’ve been having up here in Massachusetts.  To make a long story short, in 2004 a Democrat-controlled legislature passed a law which effectively removed the Governor’s right to appoint an interim senator, should there be a vacancy.  The change was made to prevent then-Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, from getting to choose a new senator if John Kerry had been elected President.  Of course, with Kerry’s loss, it didn’t end up making a difference, but the law stayed on the books.  Until now.  With Senator Kennedy’s passing, Massachusetts did have a vacancy and one that came at a critical time.  With a Democrat in office this time, the legislature reversed course and changed the law allowing the Governor to appoint someone.  

It is a tough issue that I have been struggling with for a while.  I hate the idea of making decisions based on political calculations, but I recognize the reality that it does happen.  I also recognize that one of the perks of being the party in power is that you can change rules (think redistricting) to suit your needs.  Leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but I understand why it happens.  That fact, coupled with the realization that the next few months are going to be critical in a number of areas (health care, Afghanistan, climate change) and that I disagree with what was done in 2004, ultimately caused me to support this law change.  However, it is my fervent hope that, before the next vacancy comes along, we will come up with a standard for how to handle this sort-of situation. 

I’m sure it will shock you to know that I have a proposal.  It is nothing too revolutionary, and something that is done in other states.  Basically what I would like to see is the following steps be taken when there is a vacancy.

1. Secretary of State sets a primary and election date as soon as is legal and feasible.
2. Party of departing official prepares a list of 5 acceptable candidates (no more, no less). These candidates can be from either party, but must be eligible to serve and must agree, in writing, to not run in the special election
3. Governor takes that list and, within a reasonable period of time (to allow for vetting), chooses one person from that list to appoint.
4. That person is sworn into office by the Vice-President as soon as schedules allow.

Seems simple and clear. It would prevent one person from having all the power, ensure that the seat stays in the same party (which is only fair) and removes any chance (assuming people are true to their word) that the benefits of incumbency would result in “senator for life” being appointed. Fell free to call it the Weisman Bill if you want. 🙂

Before I go, I also wanted to run down the list of possible appointments and give you my prediction on who the Governor will appoint. Of course, this prediction would be a LOT more dramatic or impressive if I had made it before the Boston Globe, NPR and New York Times all reported who the likely choice is, but we can look past that can’t we?

The candidates, in order of pick likelihood.

Paul Kirk: A former chair of the DNC and aide to the late Senator, he is the choice of the Kennedy family (Vicki, Patrick and Ted, Jr. have all lobbied Governor Patrick for him). His selection would demonstrate the continued influence of the Kennedy family and will likely be cheered by Kennedy loyalists, both in Mass. and in DC. While not well-known locally, he is a player in DC and will very comfortable in the Senate chamber. It should give us pause that he is on the board of Hartford Financial, but he will know that he owes his appointment to the Kennedy family and will likely vote as the Senator would have.   In short, he is more likely to do what Kennedy wants, even it goes against what he wants.

Michael Dukakis: The early-front runner, Dukakis is still extremely popular in Massachusetts among liberals and would be a very strong voice for the issues Senator Kennedy cared about. He is extremely familiar with many of those issues, so the learning curve would be virtually non-existant. In addition, his fame in the state, would allow him to get right to work and not have to worry about introducing himself to the citizens.

Charles Ogletree: A Professor at Harvard Law School (who taught the Obamas), Ogletree founded the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. An extremely dynamic figure (I was hoping he’d run for the seat) Ogletree would certainly have the ear of the President and would likely be able to exert influence and make a difference right away. His familiarity with the issues of the day are good, though both Kirk and Dukakis have much more experience with the health care issue.  Despite that, his brilliance and varied experiences wouldn’t make it difficult for him to get up to speed quickly and wade right into the debate.

Evelyn Murphy: A former Lt. Gov. of the Commonwealth (under Dukakis), she was the first woman to hold state-wide elected office. She was also the Secretary of Environmental Affairs and has done work on the equal pay issue – both important roles, but not issues that are at the forefront of debate in Washington right now. In addition, as the least well-known (both here and in DC) of the candidates, her ability to make a difference would be limited and, with only a few months to serve, might not be able to be much more than a seat-holder.

Personally I would like to see Dukakis get the nod, since I think he would be a more passionate and effective voice for issues I care about. However, when all is said and done, it is extremely likely that Kirk will be the choice. Stay tuned…

Candidate Tuesday #2 – Bob Burr (R)

Today is Tuesday so that must mean it is time for another Candidate Tuesday.  Before we talk about Canton selectman Bob Burr, who was the first Republican to announce his candidacy, let’s review where we are at the moment.

First, the Democrats:
In:
Attorney General Martha Coakley

Likely In:
Congressman Stephen Lynch
Congressman Michael Capuano

Out:
Congressman John Tierney
Congressman Ed Markey
Fmr. Rep. Martin Meehan
Fmr. Rep. Joe Kennedy
Victoria Kennedy (D)
Congressman Barney Frank (D)
Congressman Bill Delahunt (D)
Governor Deval Patrick (D)
Lt. Governor Tim Murray (D)

And now, the Republicans
In:
State Senator Scott Brown
Selectman Bob Burr

Notable out:
Fmr. Governor Mitt Romney
Fmr. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy
Andrew Card

Ok, so now let’s talk about Bob Burr. Burr is 43 years old, a 1989 graduate of Boston College with a business degree and has served as a selectman since 2005. Burr is a graduate of Canton High School and has been active in the town for many years as a coach, member of the conservation committee and past president of the Canton Little League.

His main reason for running seems to be that he wants to keep Democrats from getting their 60 seat “filabuster-proof” majority. In addition, he has said that all of his experience working on the local level will help him to “represent the interests of the average American citizen.” He seems to have a great deal of local connections and will probably be able to build support in his local area. The big question is whether he will be able to mount a state-wide campaign and, based on the amount of trouble I had to learn anything about him, he clearly has some work to do. Like maybe a campaign website and place to collect donations/register volunteers.

As more information comes out about him, I will post updates but, for now, you know what I know about Bob Burr.

Next week: Scott Brown

Candidate Tuesday #1 – Martha Coakley

The countdown is on.  We are a mere 91 days away from the primaries in the special election to fill Senator Kennedy’s vacant seat.  The time to differentiate has come and candidates can’t waste any time getting their message out to the masses and filling their campaign coffers.  Since Kennedy’s passing, we have seen the following occur:

Announced:
Attorney General Martha Coakley (D)
Selectman Bob Burr (R)

Taken out papers to run, but haven’t officially announced:
Congressman Stephen Lynch (D)
State Senator Scott Brown (R)

Notable Declines:
Fmr. Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D)
Victoria Kennedy (D)
Congressman Barney Frank (D)
Congressman Bill Delahunt (D)
Governor Deval Patrick (D)
Lt. Governor Tim Murray (D)
Fmr. Governor Mitt Romney (R)
Fmr. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy (R)

Beyond these folks, there are a number of people who are still considering it and who will likely make a decision sooner rather than later. Now that it appears there will be no Kennedy in the race, more Democrats are likely to jump in.

Ok, with all that out of the way it is time to take a look at our first candidate, Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Martha Coakley (who shares a birthday with my wife) is 56 years old and, since 2006, has been the Attorney General of Massachusetts. Winning the election with 73% of the vote, Coakley is the first woman to ever serve as Attorney General of the Bay State and is the top female elected official in the state. You can visit her webpage here.  She brings many years of experience as a District Attorney and, according to different groups who have worked with her, a strong work ethic and genuine empathy for the people she represents.   As AG, she has been on the inside of management of the state’s universal health care program and has done a lot of work on cost containment as it relates to health care in the Commonwealth.  

According to the Huffington Post, Coakley told her supporters she decided to run “because government should work well and it has to work for everyone,” adding that the performance of government “has been in some ways disheartening and discouraging…I believe now is the time to move beyond the idea of, well, `It’s good enough for government work,’ and demand a new standard of excellence. And I know that I need to prove to voters across the commonwealth that I am the best candidate and that I would be the best new senator from Massachusetts…”

We are sure to learn more about her as the primary draws near but, for now, it is fair to say that she would be a solidly liberal voice in the Senate whose priorities will include tackling crime (of all sorts), consumer protection, defending civil rights and, hopefully, health care reform.   She doesn’t have real experience in foreign policy, so I wouldn’t expect her to be a strong voice in those policy discussions.  The influence she will have and the mark she will leave will be in the areas noted above.  When you think about the major issues Congress will be tackling in the months to come – health care, energy, education and, of course, the fragile economy – Ms. Coakley could well add valuable skills and opinions.

On the other hand, her lack of legislative experience could hold her back as she attempts to make changes and do good things in Washington.   I admit that it isn’t fair to compare any of these candidates to Senator Kennedy…however, he excelled in reaching across the aisle and knowing when to compromise and when to play tough.  Stories abound of him playing the game perfectly and, in so doing, getting the end result he wanted.  With such huge issues, do we want to elect someone who doesn’t have that experience and will take some time to learn it?  Can we afford the learning curve?

Next week: Bob Burr (R)