So, the debate. First impressions: both came off quite well, actually. Linsky is definitely the more accomplished speaker; not surprising when you consider he has eight years of House experience and many more years of prosecutorial experience before that.
Whittlesey was less accomplished (stammering a few times and shuffling through notes at times looking for factoids or, awkwardly, his closing statement), but no less impassioned for all that. Disagree though I may with many of his stances, he clearly feels strongly about the issues and his campaign.
The debate format: Audience members wrote down questions on cards which the moderator asked of the candidates. (Later in the debate audience members were allowed to directly ask their questions.) One candidate would have 2 minutes, then the other, then on to the next question. In several cases this was not conducive to learning things, since candidate 2 might say something that candidate 1 would want to respond to, and not really be able to because it’s straight off to the next question. Candidates were also given time for opening and closing statements.
Linsky’s was the first opening statement, in which he highlighted his experience and things that he’d done for the district, emphasising that these were done and not just promises. The list was quite extensive, more so than I’d even realized, and showed that he’s been quite a credit to the district. I won’t run through the list which can be found on his site, but it is impressive.
Whittlesey’s opening statement focussed on a couple of themes that were prevalent throughout the debate. First, he said he’d spoken to a lot of people who’ve never met Linsky. (I’m certainly much more politically active than most people so it’s hard for me to tell how accessible Linsky his. I certainly see him a lot!)
Secondly, according to Whittlesey, Linsky is part of the establishment on Beacon Hill, voting with the Speaker some very high percentage of the time. (95%? something like that) Indeed, I found it very interesting that he invoked Deval Patrick. Yes, he disagrees with Patrick on many an issue, but he fully agrees that Beacon Hill politics need to change, and that we should consider him as an agent of such change. (Has anybody heard of many other Republican challengers following suit on this theme?)
Thirdly, even though Linsky’s done a hell of a lot for the district, somehow it isn’t enough — we’re not seeing enough money in local aid, and that somehow, Whittlesey would do more. I never quite figured out how Whittlesey planned on doing that, though, especially since he wants to cut taxes.
Linsky’s performance was that of a seasoned politician who knows his community well. Very smooth and he clearly knows the issues front and back by heart, and has studied them thoroughly.
Whittlesey was definitely articulate and impassioned. We all know that sometimes (particularly in small races where accurate information can be hard to obtain), this can be a convincing element all on its own. It’s too bad that a lot of what he said was simply loaded with inaccuracies.
For example, he trotted out a line Healey’s tried to use once or twice (to no real success) about how we have a huge surplus (according to Whittlesey, a $2 billion surplus) and therefore can afford a rollback to 5.0%.
I was pretty sure that I would have heard about this surplus eons ago if it were true, so afterwards I looked it up and found that FY2007 will be the sixth consecutive year we’ve drawn on the Rainy Day Fund (page 21), so I’m not sure how anybody thinks we have a huge surplus like that. No telling how much of the constituency knows this, though…
Experience is a big issue in this campaign. As in, Whittlesey has absolutely no experience in government or politics whatsoever. Never even attended Town Meeting (well, he claims he did once but his name’s not on the attendance list). A lot of people have a lot of concerns over how he could possibly serve the district adequately. This question came up last night, of course, and Whittlesey tried to brush it off as not a concern (“Why are you so focussed on my Town Meeting attendance record?”), but it will be a huge sticking point for his campaign.
On the other hand, Linsky’s experience is extensive: he was a Middlesex ADA for 14 years, and has been in the House for 8 years, and was a member of Natick Town Meeting for 14 years as well. There’s no doubt in my mind about his ability to get things done.
On abortion, Whittlesey professed confusion as to why this was an issue. Yes, he’s pro-life and Linsky is pro-choice, but Roe v. Wade makes this a moot point. Linsky countered that yes, he was pro-choice, and there’s an all-too-real possibility this will actually matter. The current make-up of the Supreme Court is such that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, making it a state issue again. To drive the experince point home, Linsky cited this as an example of how Whittlesey doesn’t really “get it”, not to be aware that this could blow up into a huge issue.
On same-sex marriage, Linsky affirmed the right of all couples to enjoy the benefits of marriage. Whittlesey made the usual claim that it’s not about rights, it’s about the definition of marriage, and the people should decide this.
I’ve gone on long enough, and as I’ve said before, on many other issue they were opposed, with the classic — dare I say predictable (given their party memberships)? — stances. One very notable exception was the RGGI — both said Romney should not have withdrawn us from it.
So, what’s the end result of the debate? Who won? I don’t like assigning winners and losers to debates when it’s not immediately obvious. Let’s just say that Linsky came across to me as far more knowledgeable and capable, not to mention better organized, whereas Whittlesey certainly scored some points for being passionate.
I do worry about the passion part, especially since the format of the debate was not conducive to the candidates contradicting each other — Linsky clearly wanted to clarify or contradict Whittlesey several times, but was unable to do so because of the format. I hope the electorate is well-informed enough to be aware of at least some of the inaccuracies.
From where I sit there’s definitely a real race here. I think Dave Linsky should win it easily, but there’s no telling for sure. It’s too bad that polling isn’t typically done on such a local level, but there are an awful lot of lawn signs for both candidates around. Not an accurate measure by any means, for sure, but I think this is a race to keep your eyes on.