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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.

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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:

http://www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/myelectioninfo.php

Link for 1/12 – Palin on Fox (shock!) and some passion in Mass.

Yesterday was a day of news that NO ONE could have seen coming.  To begin with Mark McGwire admitted he took steriods…but only in very low doses and they didn’t make him a better player.  Umm?  Yes, they did.  Sorry Mark, that part of your ‘confession’ really hurts your credibility…not that you had much of it to begin with.  But, shocker as that was, it wasn’t the biggest unexpected story of the day.  Nope.  That honor goes to Sarah Palin and Fox News who, in a marriage too strange for even a made-for-TV movie starring Tori Spelling, have agreed on a contract that will have Palin appearing on the network….oooh what a shocker!

Now, I do not agree with the theories put forth in this article and by others that this move means it is less likely she will run for President in 2012.  If anything, this only makes her a more viable candidate.  Working for Fox is a great chance for her to refine her views on issues/learn about them and stay visible to the American public.  As for it being a multi-year deal…well, I think we all know how reliable Governor Palin (and many in politics are) at fulfilling the full length of their commitments.   In addition, a recent poll of party insiders show that many of them do not do not believe she will be the nominee – in fact, they ranked her 5th out of their five choices, behind such notable names as Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels in terms of likelihood to win the nomination.  Going on TV on a regular basis (a place where she is very comfortable) is her opportunity to show them that she has the intellectual chops one should have to be a successful elected official and may help more of them get behind her.  Finally, I’m sure this is a very lucrative deal and, since money=power in politics, that can only help her as she launches her campaign.  Sarah Palin will be a candidate in 2012 and this move only helps her become a more viable candidate. 

Switching gears to Massachusetts now, I am happy to report that Scott Brown DOES have an opponent.  In the last week, we have finally seen Martha Coakley out on the trail and showing some passion during the debates.  For a recap of last night’s debate (which Coakley won handily), check out this article.  She was able to clearly articulate differences between Brown and herself and effectively tie him to failed policies of the past.  In a race where Brown is trying so hard to be both conservative and moderate (see Romney, Mitt) she held him accountable for his past stances on issues and refused to let him play both sides.  In addition, she successfully branded him a barrier to progress (he didn’t say he would work to make the healthcare bill better…he said that he would be “proud” to vote against it.)  

Coakley clearly had the best line of the night when she said to Brown “You cant distort my record and not be accurate about your own.”   For his part, Brown had one of the stupidest lines I’ve ever heard in a debate when he said, in response to Coakley comparing him to Bush, “You can run against Bush-Cheney, but I’m Scott Brown. I live in Wrentham. I drive a truck.”  Couple of problems with this line.  To begin with, she can’t run against Bush – Cheney…they are not running for anything.  She is running against you, Mr. Brown, and your policies do resemble those of Bush.  In addition, I have a piece of advice for you…if you are trying to distance yourself from President Bush, you might want to do your research about what kind of car he drives…  oops

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.

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:

Democrats:
Alan Khazei
Stephen Pagliuca
Martha Coakley
Michael Capuano

Republicans:
Scott Brown

Independent:
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

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.

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.