It seems pretty clear that Attorney General Martha Coakley will be the Democrats’ September choice to run against Charlie Baker in November. As of the writing of this article, she is polling at 53% to Treasurer Steve Grossman’s 17% and Don Berwick’s 5%. And she has held a lead above 30% long enough to make it pretty certain she won’t lose enough of it by the September primary to give Grossman a chance at victory.
Actually, Grossman’s fate was probably determined at the Democratic convention. Conventional wisdom held that if he won 50% of the delegates or higher, he could get the pump needed to catch Coakley in the polls. He was well below 50% and, as expected, got no pump. And Berwick, whose surprise convention delegate total was only one percent below Coakley’s at 21%, has been unable to convert his convention performance into a significant increase in his poll numbers. I think it’s fair to say that the core politicos are for Grossman but the people are for Coakley, whose performance as attorney general has been spectacular.
On the other hand, if recent polls are to be believed, the November elections are not so clear cut. A Boston Globe poll has the lesser-known Baker closing the gap on Coakley to within 5 percentage points, although another poll, WBUR, shows Coakley widening the gap since May to 9 percent. Both, however, suggest that the hard-to-pin-down Baker is in good position to win in November. And he might just be the most desirable choice. (Before this article made it to press, a newer poll showed just a 3% gap and Steve Grossman went negative on Coakley in a $300,000 ad buy that probably won’t help Grossman but might well help Baker, who has gained the added issue of the recent probation convictions to thump Massachusetts Democrats with the patronage issue.)
I certainly don’t hold the fact that Baker is a Republican against him, the sorry state of the national Republican Party notwithstanding. Republicans Weld and Cellucci were pretty good governors, partly because both were personable and practical and able to reach across the aisle and work with the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled legislature. And rigid Republican Governor Romney was harmless as he spent his entire single term hiding his conservative inclinations and avoiding significant conflict (with the exception of “RomneyCare” and Bulger bashing) while running for the presidency. None of the three were that much more distinguishable from the last three Democratic governors including the incumbent. The differences were marginal enough that liberal, one-party Massachusetts elected them mostly, I believe, to create a façade of balanced governance because nothing much ever changed.
Don’t get me wrong. A lot of real Rockefeller Republicans combined with Tea Party types to give the last three Massachusetts Republican governors an electoral base to operate from. And a lot of Independent (unenrolled) voters joined them. By Independent I mean voters who are not Democrats, who would like to be Republicans but are too embarrassed to associate their names with the national Republican Party that seems to be dominated by former Southern Democrats, radical Tea Party types, gun zealots, anti-abortionists, anti-gay marriage, anti-immigrants and anti whatever comes to their mind at a moment in time that elevates their self-centered sense of superiority. Sort of like a lot of Massachusetts Democrats who abandoned their liberal cohorts to push the Republican candidates over the top in fruitless hopes of pushing Massachusetts’ perceived far-left-of-center political dynamic to the right side. Add all of these to the disaffected Democrats who simply tire of the inside politics of Massachusetts and yearn for a fictional Camelot where justice and fairness, merit and qualifications trump patronage and cronyism (as in the probation trial) and you end up with a Republican governor, which is why I may put my money on Charlie Baker to become our next governor if I could just get to know who he is.
Seriously! All I really know about Charlie Baker is that he is not as much of an inside player as are the leading Democratic candidates. His line is not as long (probably because of the rarity of Massachusetts Republicans) and his inclinations tend away from the political status quo. I like Martha Coakley but she is locked up by a slew of long-term Democratic operatives who don’t trust Steve Grossman but who will work hard to restrict access to government to people like me. And the rest of the clinging Democratic operatives with the same inclinations have formed an even longer line for Steve Grossman. And I’m talking about people who have fed at the trough of Democratic largesse for years and years. And who expect to get their share of the spoils and some. And who will dominate the direction of our government from the outside for the next four to eight years with no countervailing force in place to curb their interminable greed for raw power and control. I yearn for someone different to sit in the governor’s office who can alter the traditional dynamic. And Charlie Baker might just be the one.
I am not naïve. I harbor no personal expectations of Charlie Baker. And I know he will not move the massive mountain of Massachusetts Democratic-dominated government very far. So should he win, I am not expecting a paradigm shift in the way Massachusetts government operates. But, like a lot of disaffected voters, just the thought of a little bitty alteration in the business-as-usual paradigm that has suffocated the electoral turnout of so many voters for decades has encouraged me, a Democrat, to consider a vote for the Republican, Charlie Baker, even if I never get to know who he is. ?
There are many reasons I could support Martha Coakley for Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not the least of which is that she and I agree on a lot of the issues that I am passionate about and feel are important for this state, such as her stand on education, the minimum wage, promotion of entrepreneurship, outreach to minorities and women, transportation expansion and infrastructure development. But sidestepping for a moment her positions on these issues, let me share with you what most impresses me about Martha Coakley.
First, she is a woman. A woman who is not part of the “good ole boy” political machine but who, nevertheless, gets judged by their standards. Every move she makes. Every word she utters. Every idea she puts forth. It’s all filtered through a lens that tends to automatically downplay women politicians who have the audacity to be true to themselves and stand up for what they believe. Having served 12 years on the local political level as a school committee member, I know this to be true from firsthand experience. And I agree, women do think differently. They do bring a different perspective to governing?a much needed one I might add. We’re tough and we refuse to be taken for granted; but many of us are also mothers and we bring a sensitivity and an ability to compromise to our positions that I find enhances our ability to get things done.
So, yes, I like Martha Coakley because she’s a woman who is a strong, tough outsider who is not afraid to fight the powers that be and who is also not afraid to show her compassionate side when appropriate. And for the record, I tend to be biased in favor of female Democratic candidates. I supported Shannon O’Brien when she ran for Governor in 2002. I supported Martha when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010. I supported Elizabeth Warren when she ran for Senate in 2012. And I plan to support Hillary Clinton (or Elizabeth Warren) if she runs for President in 2016.
The second thing that impresses me about Martha Coakley is that I have a huge admiration for people who get knocked down and then get back up and fight again, especially when they are willing to be honest about their mistakes. I had the opportunity to meet with Martha when she came to Point of View’s office in April and I found her to be disarmingly candid about her loss to Scott Brown, as well as what she was doing differently in this campaign. Frankly, I was impressed. I also very quickly realized that the press’s portrayal of her as distant and cold is so far from the truth as to be ludicrous. She is warm, intelligent and sharp, knowledgeable and open, forthright yet willing to listen.
So, truthfully, I actually could support Martha Coakley for Governor based on those two reasons alone. But, being part of a political family and a newspaper editor, I’m probably expected to base my decision on a little more substance, so here goes.
I am an avid supporter of education. I have always believed that a quality education unlocks doors for poor children and minorities and I have seen that belief materialize in my own family and the families of many of my friends. Martha shares this belief and has outlined a “Roadmap to Opportunity” plan that targets education reforms to help close the achievement gap and address inequality beginning with establishing an universal preschool effort for children living in Gateway cities like Holyoke and Springfield “where median family income, enrollment in early education, and student achievement overall is often much lower than in other areas of the state.” We absolutely must keep our emphasis on education (which leads to jobs, stable communities and an improved economy) if we have any hope of stemming the tide of youth violence in our urban areas.
I am also a vocal supporter of women’s rights and have always championed women being paid equal pay for equal work. It’s the 21st century for goodness sake! We shouldn’t still be having this discussion. We need to make sure that women, who are increasingly the sole breadwinners in the family, receive the support they need to function effectively and that includes access to affordable health care for themselves and their families, better protection from abuse and putting women’s issues in the forefront, all of which Martha is committed to. Her establishment of a Women’s Leadership Council will give her input from strong women leaders throughout the Commonwealth.
I am in agreement with Martha’s approach to several other issues that are key to growth in the state, such as transportation infrastructure expansion, the need to focus on energy costs and the environment, attracting meaningful investment in the economy and commonsense public safety and gun control laws. Furthermore, I appreciate Martha’s deliberate outreach to minorities and to the western part of the state. Inclusiveness of people of different ethnicities, geographical areas, genders, socioeconomic status and opinions ensures that government works for everyone.
One other important point that I need to make is that as a lawyer I appreciate the job Martha Coakley has done as our Attorney General. She has taken stands and made decisions she felt were in the best interests for the people of the Commonwealth. She has served us well and has nothing to be ashamed of. In the legal profession, we are called upon to do the very best we can for our clients. That commitment is our judge, not specific outcomes.
So for me, as a Democrat, no matter what my husband says about Charlie Baker, and notwithstanding his one year as a Republican, my choice for Governor is between Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman and as of right now, I think you can tell where I’m leaning. ?