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Candidate Tuesday #9 – The best of the rest

It wouldn’t be an election without some colorful characters.  Over the course of the last 2 months we have examined the major candidates who are hoping to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy and represent Massachusetts in the Senate.  However, we haven’t had the chance to meet some of the other folks who want to have their voices heard.  That is, until now.  Enjoy!  Some have run for office before.  Some are serious about winning.  Some have an issue they are hoping to bring more attention to.  Some are just crazy.  But all are worth knowing about.

Who is your favorite?  For me, I think it has to be the woman who claims to be the illegitimate child of Kathleen Kennedy and King George VI.

I should note that not all of these candidates collected enough signatures by the 11/24 deadline.  But I just couldn’t let a silly thing like ballot eligibility keep me from introducing you to these fine folks.

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.

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…

I don’t want to toot my own horn but…

So let’s review what has happened since I started this blog 2 days ago:

1. Brett Favre came out of retirement AGAIN

2. Robert Novak and Don Hewitt (two news GIANTS) passed away

3. Afghanistan is holding elections against a backdrop of terrorist threats

4. The WONDERFUL Barney Frank fired back at those idiots who are trying to disrupt townhall meetings devoted to healthcare discussions.  (I might have to write about this later, but for now just check out the video)

5. I found a bar in Boston that has a GREAT beer list and $1 Fenway Franks.  Check out “Lower Depths.” You won’t regret it…I promise. 

What’s a boy to write about????  Man, I thought this blog thing would be easy.  And, I don’t mean to take credit for all these big news stories happening right after I started this thing, but…well the proof is in the pudding as they say. 

Actually, as it turns out, I’m not going to write about any of those things.  I want to talk about Senator Kennedy.  The Boston Globe reported this morning that the Senator, who is battling brain cancer, sent a very personal, wistful letter to Governor Patrick, Senate President Murray and Speaker DeLeo asking them to consider changing the 2004 law and allow the Governor to appoint a new senator should the need arise.  This would remove the 5 months between a vacancy and the special election to fill the seat.  You can read the letter here.

I have two responses to this:

1. I think Senator Kennedy is correct that it is important for Mass. to be represented by two senators at all times, especially with such critical issues being discussed every day.  However, I am a bit nervous about what impact that something like this would have on the fairness of an election.  Incumbents win a HUGE percentage of races, and I worry that this would, effectively, guarantee the Governor appointing the next full-term senator by giving the appointee a head start in gaining name recognition and raising money.  Also, I wonder why this wasn’t discussed when we had a Republican Governor- it makes me nervous when laws are amended because of the benefits to the party. 
2. But, the real issue here is what message this letter sends.  Senator Kennedy is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest public servants we have EVER had in this country.  His ability to work with folks from both parties (not just talk about it) is admirable and he has been such a strong voice for disenfranchised people everywhere.  The things he has been able to accomplish in his time in office has made our country SO much better and I am so grateful to him for that.  This letter, coming on the heals of him not attending his sister’s memorial service, really worries me.  I know his aides are saying that there has been no material change in his condition, but I just find that hard to believe.  I am so nervous that there is something going on that is prompting him to be sending this letter.  And at a time when his voice is sorely needed, perhaps more than ever.  We are finally on the verge of comprehensive healthcare reform (his dream) and we need geniuses like him to counter the mindless shouting by so many opponents and help people engage in thoughtful and intelligent conversation.  Please keep him in your thoughts and let’s all hope and pray that whatever is going on, he will bounce back and we will, sooner rather than later, see him once again on the floor of the senate speaking up for the people who need him.