Check out this website for a great explanation of a risk that Harry Reid took in his constant effort to please everyone. In the next few days we will say if Reid can get past the bluster of certain members of his caucus and give everyone just enough to ensure he has the 60 votes he needs. This will take all of his negotiating skill and it will require him to make some deals and maybe, just maybe, play hardball with colleagues on his side of the aisle. How much would you love to be a fly on the wall in his office right now. Finally, now is when Senator Kennedy’s powerful voice is really missed.
I’ve been teasing it for a few weeks and now, finally, it is time to learn more about the only “Kennedy” in the race. A member of the National Libertarian Party, Joe Kennedy has collected enough signatures and will be on the ballot as an independent. Mr. Kennedy claims no relation to the Kennedy family and, in fact, has made quite clear that if any Kennedy had decided to run, he would have stayed out. However, with none of Senator Kennedy’s family entering the race, Citizen Kennedy is in. (Confused yet?)
Kennedy is a pretty standard-issue Libertarian (if there is such a thing) He believes in the government staying out of people’s lives (ie. same-sex marriage and, indeed, marriage in general, is not something for the government to legislate). In fact, on his campaign website, he directs readers to the webpage of the National Libertarian Party for more detail on his positions. Kennedy has arrived at his political perspective through concerns over the over-spending in Washington and is uncomfortable with what he sees as the long-term costs and risks of the federal government controlling so much. Finally, this Kennedy would vote against the health care bill now in Washington in favor of free-market solutions. He believes the increases in costs over the past 50 years have come as a result of government regulation and doctors having to insure themselves against medical malpractice cases.
He will be on the final ballot so we will have more an opportunitiy to examine his exact positions on a variety of issues but, for now, check out his campaign website.
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):
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.
I give you multiple links today, all related to the President’s speech last night on healthcare.
Overall, I thought it was a really good speech with strong and specific messages. Of course Obama had the lofty rhetoric he is so good at (and how powerful to invoke Kennedy at the end) but, listening to him, you also got a clear sense of what direction he believes reform should take. Finding common ground means making compromises and I applaud the President for making that effort (not just on the malpractice issue – which I am skeptical of – but also on the emergency fund to bridge the gap before reforms can be enacted – a McCain idea – and an individual mandate to have coverage – a Clinton idea.) He seems dedicated to making this the best possible bill and I appreciate those efforts.
From Congressman Boustany’s really strong and thoughtful response it is clear there is a lot we can agree on, but that there are some big differences. I am heartened that Dr. Boustany highlighted some areas that are really important and indicated his support for them. To quote the Congressman on some areas of agreement, “One, all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions. Two, individuals, small businesses and other groups should be able to join together to get health insurance at lower prices, the same way large businesses and labor unions do. Three, we can provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor. And, four, insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention” In his response, he also commented that it is important for the plan to be affordable. He used that point to illustrate a difference that he has with the President, but I don’t see it that way. The President, in giving us his specifics, also explained how it would be paid for (without increasing the deficit) and offered to make spending cuts if projected savings are not realized. No “fact-checking” site I have seen disputes that he can pay for this without adding to the burden we are passing along to the next generation. But, even if it did, I’m comfortable increasing the national debt to ensure people can live full and healthier lives. Doesn’t seem like a bad use of money to me. However, just so that is not taken out of context, I believe the President when he says that it won’t.
However, agreement on these issues only gets us so far and there are still some significant differences, especially centered around the so-called public option. I was disturbed to hear Congressman Boustany repeat the oft-heard line about resisting reform now and starting over. He should know better than most that sometimes waiting is not the best choice. If there is a dying patient, you don’t wait weeks to perform the life-saving operation. In many cases, the longer you wait to provide care, the less likely your chances for success. Opponents of reform have succeeded for YEARS pushing the work off to the next congress, to the next president, to the next generation. Well, we are at a critical point now and pushing it off again could well cost people their lives or force them to choose between paying for medicine or food. Losing their home or losing their loved one. That I am not comfortable with.
To that point, to the progressives in Congress who are so wed to the idea of a Public Option, I think we need to hear the President when he says that that option is a “means to an end” and there are other ways of getting there. It is really important, over the coming weeks, all of you listen seriously to other proposals and actually consider them. Maybe co-ops are a better choice? Maybe something else is? We know what the end goal is – quality and affordable healthcare for all – and I submit to you that the Public Option is only one way of getting there. There are others and it behooves all of us for those to be given a fair chance and not rejected out of hand.
To my Democratic friends who would prefer to look at Dr. Boustany’s medical record or criticize him for trying to become a lord or further the “birther” movement, please stop. Let’s focus on ideas and not try to discredit someone through name-calling. As a final point, there are many issues still to debate and figure out. Here’s hoping we do it with the civility Dr. Boustany showed and not the immaturity we have seen at town halls and, thanks to Congressman Wilson, in the halls of Congress.
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:
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)
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)
Well that is the burning question in Massachusetts and, really, the nation. With Dems now one seat short of the magical 60 seats (which is an overblown idea if you ask me) and the fact that we haven’t seen an open senate seat in more than 25 years in Massachusetts, this is sure to be a fierce race. Governor Patrick announced yesterday that a special election will be held on 1/19 with a primary on 12/8. If you are interested in running, the full schedule is here.
Each Tuesday, between now and 11/24, I will profile the candidates running for their parties nomination. Originally I had planned to do one Democrat and one Republican each day and I will, if enough Republicans run. Otherwise, I will intersperse them or come up with some other way of talking about them. Then, on 12/1 I will endorse a Democrat and a Republican which, my influence and reputation being what they are, will surely cause them to lose. After the primary, I will probably turn Candidate Tuesday into Issue Tuesday and present a particular issue and feature the positions of each candidate on that issue for your education and, I hope, debate. That is my plan…I hope you like it 🙂
Stay tuned for the first Candidate Tuesday…coming 9/8!!!
You’ll forgive me if I give you a couple of links today. With the passing of Senator Kennedy, I want to share the reactions of his fellow world leaders (across the political spectrum), a sampling of his own words, and a list of his legislative accomplishments (with the understanding that there are so many other accomplishments, both small and large, that will not be on that list). What we are hearing today is true admiration from friend and foe alike. Both Democrats and Republicans are noting his ability to work across the aisle, his friendship and his larger than life status. They are telling stories of compromises he made, bills he wrote and his unwavering desire to do whatever he could to help people. The remarkable Senator Kennedy could disagree, but still be cordial. Argue while still being respectful. Listen closely and respond honestly. Above all, he focused on facts, not insults and results rather than rhetoric (though he was a master at both). One can only hope that people take a lesson from him and honor his memory by avoiding “swift boat” or attacks and focus on working together to make this wonderful country of ours better.
Kennedy remembered (check out Sarah Palin’s statement…you’d think she could at least fake some sincerity!)
Legislative Accomplishments (It is a long document, but worth skimming the headers. He really did so much for so many people)
The line I have been repeating over and over to myself is from his 1980 concession speech at the Democratic National Convention. Seems oddly appropriate today…
For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
RIP Senator Kennedy. I am so proud to have been able to vote for you and will truly miss you.