In CD-5, Vote Your Aspirations

Good advice. So, which of the candidates best lines up with your aspirations? Why? - promoted by david

As a resident within the Massachusetts 5th Congressional District, I have had the privilege of being represented by Ed Markey. I, along with most of the folks reading this blog, worked hard to ensure that he became our new Senator-Elect — and I am ecstatic that we will have yet another true progressive champion in the US Senate. Naturally, many of my friends and colleagues have begun talking about the next race here — the race to succeed Ed Markey. I want to be clear: in this post I am speaking on behalf of myself only, and this should not be construed of the opinion of the organization I work for or any organization I am associated with – this is just me needing to say a few things.

I want to propose a few assumptions about this particular seat that you can feel free to disagree with, but that I think are pretty basic.

Assumption 1: Whoever wins the Democratic Primary in CD5 will almost assuredly win the general election.

Assumption 2: Whatever Democratic candidate becomes the next Congressperson will hold that seat for the foreseeable future. I look at Congressmen Markey, Frank, Olver, Neal, McGovern, Lynch, and, yes, even Tierney as evidence. Even Tierney, who is about as threatened a Congressman as you could get in MA won his re-election against a strong Republican candidate (Tisei). So, barring some scandal, or more likely the Congressperson moving on to run for something else / getting appointed to something, whoever wins this race is there until they pretty much don’t want to be there.

Assumption 3: Right now, the Speaker of the House is GOP John Boehner. Given that, I think it’s safe to say that all of the Democrats currently running for this seat would probably not have a whole lot of influence as a 1st-term minority Congressperson, outside of the issues that are specific to this district and whatever noise they can make. They’ll each find at least a cause or two to champion, and do the hard work of good constituent services, but in terms of their votes, in this Congress, they’ll all be about the same — voting with the mainstream Democratic Party on almost everything.

Assumption 4: All of the candidates are good people, who have their own unique record of accomplishments to point to. Carl Sciortino, Katherine Clark, Peter Koutoujian, Karen Spilka, and Will Brownsberger are all qualified to be in Congress. They can each do the job; the question is who is best for the job.

Therefore, this election is not just about the next two years. It’s about who residents of the CD-5 want for the long term, and who, in the meanwhile, will make as much noise as they can to move the issues that matter to this district and Massachusetts down the field. To combat the Tea Party, we should elect a strong, bold progressive candidate. And moreover, this is the only Congressional election I can think of where money and consultants and Party support and all the rest…just don’t matter.

When making up your mind who to support I would only ask this: vote your aspirations.

Some real talk that you won’t see in fundraising emails: in this election we, as progressive Democrats, have the privilege to not worry about a tough Republican challenger. We can go and elect the Democrat we actually want. Moreover, we’re privileged to have a slate of good candidates and not have to “vote the lesser of two evils.” In other words, your vote for the person you really like is not going to give a vote to some horrible candidate, a la Nader giving a vote to Bush because there are no Bushes. Because we have such a great field, do not vote or support the candidate you think is the frontrunner or who has the “party backing”: support the candidate who you think is the best. We have the luxury in this race to do that without worrying about consequences down the road.

When choosing who to support ask yourself: Who is going to be the best ally of Elizabeth Warren’s as she takes on Wall Street? Who is going to be the best ally of Ed Markey’s as he takes on Big Oil? What issues will the candidate for Congress champion while they’re a member of the minority party? And what would they do once they get some seniority and have the power to influence legislation down the line? Are they going to push the envelope? When Democrats eventually do return to power will they work with Speaker Pelosi (or whoever the Speaker is) to push forward progressive legislation? Will they push Speaker Pelosi (or whoever) to go farther than they otherwise would?

In CD-5, vote your aspirations. We are blessed to have 5 good candidates. Don’t let party apparatus, money, or any other side issue influence you.


14 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Assumptions

    First, while there are five announced candidates – currently – I’m not convinced that the field is set. Nomination papers haven’t been released, signatures haven’t been collected and a primary date hasn’t been set (anticipating October primary).

    Money will matter, otherwise candidates wouldn’t have been fundraising for the last several months. Four of the five announced candidates are not well know outside their districts, with Koutoujian being the only one having run in a majority of the District. So fundraising will allow a candidate to breakout of their base and contact good voters throughout the 5th CD.

    Field will matter equally with money. This will be a GOTV race, with ID, knock-and-pull being the order of the day. Brownsberger showed what a dedicated base can do in a special election winning the state senate seat by turning out Belmont in huge numbers. Candidates will have to deal with potential city primaries in September and then a CD primary in October. Voter ID will be key.

    The announced field all have voting records we can compare, so while we can vote our aspirations, we can also vote based on records that show the candidates priorities as opposed to their campaign spin.

    • I just want to be clear

      I am not saying that money doesn’t matter — it matters very much inasmuch as it will help the candidates send their mail pieces, take out those tv ads, fund their field operations, and do all the other necessary steps to win this election. My point isn’t that money doesn’t matter to the candidates — of course it does and to say otherwise is naive. I am saying that in this election it shouldn’t matter to us.

      As voters, whether a candidate raises $300k vs. $500k doesn’t really tell us anything other than that one is able to raise more funds for this particular primary/general election. It does not tell me anything about their character, their priorities, or (as you say) their legislative voting records. And while it might tell me how likely it is they will be elected, it won’t tell me whether they should be.

      Because we have such a strong D district, the primary is the general. This means we don’t have to vote for “the strongest candidate,” however that is perceived, because it’s “good for the party” or “good for the general election.” In other words, in many elections we’ll take money as an indicator of general election chances and use that in part of our decision-making criteria of who to vote for. Viability is often important. My point is simple: we don’t have to worry about that. All candidates so far announced are viable. And if candidates raise a lot of money, good for them, but, we don’t have to make our decisions based on money or perceived strength in an election. We only have to worry about how strong they’ll be as a representative, not as a candidate. And isn’t that great?

  2. Rare treat actually

    Good analysis. These elections are harder ironically, there is no clear good and bad dichotomy like Warren/Brown; no hold the nose quality like Kerry/Bush or Coakley/Brown. Instead it’s a field of candidates who agree on most issues and are all relatively accomplished in their own right. It’s the rare treat we are afforded this. And while for the people of the 5th it’s the third election in less than a year, it’s also the last time the decision can be savored without stress.

    I’d also add a sixth factor, whomever wins will need to be replaced in another special (Sheriff Khoutjian excepted, a progressive Governor will select his replacement were he to win), and whoever is waiting in line might not be as progressive.

    • Dominoes

      It’s accurate that, should one of the sitting state legislators running in CD-5 win, a special election to fill that seat would follow. To that end, here are names you’d likely hear come up for each state legislative seat:

      State Senator Will Brownsberger: 2nd Suffolk & Middlesex
      Belmont, Watertown, portions of Boston
      State Representative John Lawn (D-Watertown)
      State Representative Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown)
      State Representative Michael Moran (D-Boston)
      State Representative Kevin Honan (D-Boston)
      Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo (OCPF does not note a Party affiliation)
      Former State Representative & current RMV Registrar Rachel Kaprielian (D-Watertown)
      Former State Sen., former State Rep., 1998 Lt. Gov. nominee & 2002 Gov. candidate Warren Tolman (D-Watertown)
      Former State Senate candidate Robert McCarthy (D-Watertown)
      My guess: This could be a race between Moran and either or both of the Watertown State Reps, unless Kaprielian wanted to return to the Legislature, in which case she’d be the front-runner. If not, Hecht may be the front-runner. McCarthy had a respectable showing in the special election to succeed Steve Tolman, which Brownsberger won, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him run again. (I don’t see Honan, Ciommo, or Tolman going for it, for different reasons)

      State Senator Katherine Clark: 5th Middlesex
      Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, portions of Winchester
      State Representative Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose)
      State Representative Jason Lewis (D-Winchester)
      State Representative Christopher Fallon (D-Malden)
      My guess: Fallon, despite his Democratic Party affiliation, endorsed Scott Brown for U.S. Senate over Elizabeth Warren, so he’s out. Brodeur’s and Lewis’ State Rep districts have similar footprints in the State Sen district, so there doesn’t appear to be a geographic advantage. Could be a 50-50 race between Brodeur and Lewis.

      State Senator Karen Spilka: 2nd Middlesex & Norfolk
      Ashland, Framingham, portions of Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, portions of Natick
      State Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland)
      State Representative Chris Walsh (D-Framingham)
      State Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston)
      My guess: With nothing to lose in a special, all three would consider running. I believe Walsh is the least progressive of the three. If all three ran, I think Dykema would have a geographic advantage assuming her representation of Holliston-Hopkinton gives her better name recognition in Medway-Franklin than her more northern colleagues splitting Framingham-Ashland, with Natick up for grabs. If Walsh sat out, we could see a 50-50 race between Sannicandro and Dykema.

      State Representative Carl Sciortino: 34th Middlesex
      Portions of Medford, portions of Somerville
      Somerville Alderman Dennis Sullivan (At Large)
      Somerville Alderman William White (At Large)
      Somerville Alderman Tony Lafuente (Ward 4)
      Somerville Alderman Robert Trane (Ward 7)
      Somerville Alderman candidate Katjana Ballantyne (D-Somerville, Ward 7)
      Health care policy analyst Christine Barber (D-Somerville, Ward 4)
      Medford City Councillor Frederick Dello Russo (unaware of Party affiliation)
      My guess: Aldermen White and Sullivan were both endorsed by Progressive Dems of Somerville in 2011, for what that’s worth. So were Ballantyne and Barber in their respective challenges to Trane and Lafuente. Ballantyne and Barber are both strong progressives. No idea about Dello Russo. I wouldn’t be shocked if a lesser known candidate came out of Medford. Up for grabs?

      • Somerville race

        Capuano’s son also announced for the Ward 7 race.

        • Also in Medford / Sciortino

          I should have included Medford School Committee member Erin DiBenedetto (unaware of Party affiliation) on the Sciortino list. Any other Medford names to consider? (I’m not too familiar with Meffa municipal politics.)

          This is a particularly useful brainstorm because, if Rep. Sciortino doesn’t win the Democratic primary and general election for CD-5, one still would imagine that he would be a shoo-in to succeed State Senator Pat Jehlen (who I believe turns 70 this October) whenever she decides to retire from the State Senate.

          • I'd imagine he would

            Which is why I’m surprised he got into this one. But he figures he has nothing to lose. I’d be very happy with Brownsberger or Sciortino.

      • Thanks!

        That’s the very analysis I requested and far better than any I could have come up with. My guess is Hecht would be the front runner if Brownsberger wo and would be a solid replacement in my estimation (he is my rep now and has done a great job reaching out to West Cambridge and the wards in North Cambridge he picked up, a solid choice IMO).

        I would not burden you with even more work but if a rep wins the dominoes will continue. Also curious about Fallon, he strikes me as the exact kid if Democrat we need to be targeting with a primary, and Malden strikes me as a more diverse and progressive area than a Reagan Democrat holdover like an Andover, Peabody or Woburn. It’s Markey’s hometown we should win it!

  3. MA-5

    District of my birthplace. Our family voted for Ed Markey in his first Congressional race and thereafter. I worked on the campaign with my parents but wasn’t old enough to vote.

    All good points to consider. It is helpful to thoughtful voters to have a rubrics from which to gauge candidates. Striker57′s observations are value-added to the proposed list.

    I would add work ethic – and from my experience with the candidates (that have made their intentions known), I would have no problem endorsing them all as hard workers.

    The edge for me will be results.

    The candidate that has the strongest record of legislative accomplishment and innovation will garner our support. Constituent services and whether s/he has demonstrated leadership as well as the conviction to oppose leadership on principle and policy, (ex. Congressman Capuano speaking in opposition to the Obama Administration’s surveillance tactics vs. state Representative Koutoujian lock-step with DeLeo) matter greatly.

    The candidate who compliments our more progressive Congressional delegation members (McGovern/Capuano) both in philosophy and breadth for building coalitions will be something to look for.

  4. Congressman Warren Tolman

    Sounds good.

  5. This is nice but

    it seems to have been written for some alternative Massachusetts in which a winner-takes-all plurality of 25% can’t carry the day.

    Between now and election day a decidedly undemocratic process—money, the press—will chose which candidates have a shot and which do not. The money primary is the end of this month.

    My biggest fear is all the progressives, and there are a lot of them, clobber each other and the lone conservative walks off with the nomination.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to temper my aspirations and vote for the best candidate who can win.

  6. Thank you so much Ari for

    providing an opportunity to for us to think about our aspirations for what kind of government we want so we can evaluate the candidates on those values, but also on their personal and political skills — not only to win the election — but to be an effective advocate inside the policy making arena to forge a strong effective progressive caucus with the capacity to convince a majority of rank and file Members to move some of our issues forward.

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Tue 28 Mar 7:36 PM