I don’t always agree with what Nemeth says, but this time around I think he got it right.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Robert Z. Nemeth
They differ in appearance, rhetoric or style but march to the same drummer on same-sex marriage, tax rollback, illegal immigration and the like.
Having been an independent voter all my life I prefer independent to unenrolled, a silly term that implies noninvolvement I will ask for a Democratic Party ballot on primary election day and vote for Deval Patrick for governor and Tim Murray for lieutenant governor. Then Ill switch back to independent status to keep my options open. This will be easy because theres no contest on the Republican side, where Kerry Healey and Reed Hillman received the partys endorsement months ago without enduring expensive, divisive preliminary contests.
As I watch the Democrats tear each other apart day after day, I wonder what happened to state party chairman Philip W. Johnstons idea of setting up a blue-ribbon commission to safeguard against negative campaigning. Evidently, the plan went nowhere, because its against the nature of competing politicians to say nice things about each other.
But lets go step by step. I expect to cast my primary vote for a Patrick-Murray combination for various reasons. For one, they were the clear choices at their partys convention in June. Mr. Patrick received 58 percent of the delegate vote, Mr. Murray 49 percent. That should have clinched the nomination. The others finished far behind, and some barely scaled the 15 percent threshold Democrats need to step over to qualify for the November ballot. What is the purpose of the convention besides presenting the rhetoric of such party icons as Ted Kennedy, Mike Dukakis and George (No Relation) McGovern if not to select the partys standard bearers?
(A convention victory doesnt guarantee primary success for Democrats. In 1968, former state Sen. Gerard DAmico of Worcester won the endorsement for lieutenant governor but lost to Evelyn Murphy in the primary.)
It has been perplexing to watch six Democrats spend an immense amount of time, energy and money to malign each other, promote themselves and make promises everybody knows they wont keep. Its peculiar, to say the least, that they blame Republicans for mismanaging the state, even though their party has dominated the system so overwhelmingly that the governor cant even muster enough votes to sustain vetoes.
I will opt for Messrs. Patrick and Murray because I believe they are better suited for the job than the other two Democrats. During my interview with Mr. Patrick, I found his thoughtfulness, eloquence and sincerity impressive. The same goes for his remarkable career that led from life on welfare in Chicago to an elite prep school, a Harvard University law degree, landmark legal work with the NAACP, a top job in the Clinton Justice Department and finally to high echelons of corporate America. He has been gaining ground steadily in a three-way race that includes entrepreneur Chris Gabrieli and Thomas Reilly, the current state attorney general and former front-runner.
Tim Murrays leadership qualities, hard drive and loyalty to the Democratic Party are well known in this neck of the woods, and beyond. As the popular part-time mayor of a city that functions under a council-manager form of government, he used his authority well, crafting a proactive agenda for the community. Mr. Patrick and Mr. Murray enjoy the full backing of Jim McGovern, the areas powerful congressman. The three could form a formidable alliance behind the liberal agenda. There is, of course, room for debate on whether such an alliance, or agenda, would benefit the commonwealth already dominated by one party.
Mr. Murrays two opponents, Andrea C. Silbert, a champion of womens causes, and Deborah B. Goldberg, a supermarket heiress with deep pockets, offer respectable resumes but seem to lack depth and overall experience for a statewide office. It remains to be seen whether they can overcome the handicap of splitting the female vote.
I expect to choose the Patrick-Murray combination based on a process of elimination as well. Having watched Mr. Reilly in office for years, Im persuaded he is a political chameleon, long on ambition and short on principles. His comic-opera performance during botched selections of a running mate raised questions about his competence. His handling of the Big Dig mess has been equally bizarre. After failing to recover runaway costs from contractors, the attorney general has been airing campaign ads to discredit the Romney administration with which he is expected to work closely to protect public interests.
As for Mr. Gabrieli, who has never been elected to anything, his continuing effort to use his wealth trying to gain public office is wearing thin. Despite spending heavily on past campaigns, he couldnt buy a congressional seat nor the job of lieutenant governor. Now he has already spent more than $7 million on the gubernatorial contest and is ready to throw in another $15 million. I dont mind fat cats aspiring to become public servants, but Mr. Gabrieli lost me when, after extolling the virtues of public education, he told me his children were attending private schools. His TV ad that portrays him as Average Joe taking out the family trash doesnt move me, either.
Despite the tons of money spent on TV ads, and the numerous debates staged for the benefit of the voters, this pre-primary race has been a redundant beauty contest. For one thing, there are no substantial differences among these Democrats. They differ in appearance, rhetoric or style but march to the same drummer on such issues as same-sex marriage, tax rollback, illegal immigration and the like. Moreover, why devote full attention to what all those candidates have to say when only one from each group will move on?
Separate campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor are wasteful and confusing. It would be better to complete the party ticket early on, preferably at the convention, and let the running mates craft a cohesive platform voters can easily understand.
As it stands, strange scenarios could evolve after primary day. For example, should both Mr. Reilly and Mr. Murray win, the Democrats would end up with two white Irish guys of similar backgrounds, who already had a falling-out when Mr. Reilly reneged on his early promise that he would not anoint a running mate.
The Democrats emerging from this largely pointless pre-primary season will kiss and make up with the others, have unity breakfasts, demonize the Republicans and pledge a concerted effort to regain the corner office that has been GOP territory for 16 years. Theyll be spending a lot more money, spin more TV commercials, stage more debates and make many promises that will be forgotten.
Tuesdays winners will not have a chance to catch their breath before entering the real battle against the formidable, well-rested and long-united GOP team of Lt. Gov. Healey and Mr. Hillman, a former legislator and head of the Massachusetts State Police. Tens of thousands of independent voters will watch and listen, knowing very well they will decide the final outcome.
Robert Z. Nemeths column appears regularly in the Sunday Telegram.