I enjoyed watching the online debate featuring the five MA-5 candidates seeking to succeed Ed Markey. But I’m not sure I learned a lot that I didn’t already know, other than that Will Brownsberger is staking out yet another iconoclastic and perhaps disqualifying position, this time on Social Security (he says chained CPI isn’t a cut; the others disagree). This can be a problem with debates: good candidates know who their audience is on any given occasion, and are often good at glossing over areas where they may disagree with that audience. I appreciate Brownsberger’s unwillingness to pander; however, since I think he’s wrong on some big issues, I probably won’t vote for him.
Anyway, to gain a little more insight into where the candidates really stand, I thought it would be useful to check out the excellent resource compiled by Progressive Massachusetts. ProgMA selected 37 Senate roll-call votes from the 2011-2012 session, assigned a “progressive position” to each of them, and then laid out how every state Senator voted – including, of course, MA-5 candidates Will Brownsberger, Katherine Clark, and Karen Spilka. Brownsberger only got to the Senate in January of 2012, so he did not participate in 17 of the votes. [UPDATE: data from 13-14 scorecard added - see below.]
It’s important to state at the outset that one can certainly disagree with ProgMA’s assessment of what the “progressive position” is. Nobody, even progressive champions Jamie Eldridge and Sonia Chang-Diaz, voted the way ProgMA would have liked 100% of the time. Nonetheless, we can learn a lot from ProgMA’s work. All of these issues are important, and regardless of how ProgMA thinks legislators should have voted, it’s very useful to know how they actually did vote.
So here are the three sitting state Senators’ voting records, according to ProgMA. Click the image for a larger view. A ”+” indicates agreement with ProgMA’s assessment of the progressive position; a “–” indicates disagreement; “NV” indicates “did not vote.” The index to the numbered votes, which explains what the issue was and the vote that ProgMA prefers, is available here.
Most interesting, of course, is where there is disagreement, which is as follows, in each case quoting ProgMA’s description of the issue:
11 (“Pension reform – Vote on an amendment to make the Massachusetts pension schedule slightly more generous. Roll Call #67 S2010 Progressive position: yes.”) Clark voted no; Spilka voted yes.
13 (“Casinos – Vote was on engrossment of expanded gambling legislation. Roll Call #102 S2015. Progressive position: no.”) Clark voted yes; Spilka voted no. [Brownsberger and Sciortino voted "no" in the House - see below.]
15 (“Criminal justice reforms -Vote on amendment to reduce the required distance for more severe penalties for drug crimes around school zones from 1000 to 250 feet. Roll Call #114 S2054. Progressive position: yes.”) Clark voted yes; Spilka voted no.
17 (“Single payer – Vote was on amendment to study the efficacy of a single payer system for healthcare. Roll Call #178 S2260. Progressive position: no.”) Brownsberger and Clark voted no; Spilka voted yes.
26 (“Criminal justice reforms -Vote was on final passage of the “three strikes” crime bill. Roll Call #243 H3818. Progressive position: no.”) Brownsberger voted no; Clark and Spilka voted yes. [Sciortino also voted in favor of this bill in the House - see below.]
28 (“Transparency -Vote was on amendment that would have required tax increment financing data for municipalities to be available on publicly searchable websites. Roll Call #256 S2350. Progressive position: yes.”) Brownsberger voted yes; Clark and Spilka voted no.
32 (“Citizens United – Vote was on bill to direct the state congressional delegation to support a federal law overturning Citizens United. Roll Call #273 S772. Progressive position: yes.”) Brownsberger voted no; Clark and Spilka voted yes.
34 (“Undocumented immigrants – Vote to override the Governor’s veto of a law using the Registry of Motor Vehicles for searching for undocumented immigrants. Roll Call #291 Progressive position: no.”) Brownsberger voted no; Clark and Spilka voted yes.
37 (“Bottle Bill – Vote was on an amendment to send to study –effectively killing, the updated Bottle Bill. Progressive position: no.”) Brownsberger voted no; Clark and Spilka voted yes.
ProgMA set up a similar tool for the House of Representatives’ 2011-2012 session, where one can learn a bit more about Brownsberger’s record, and also something about Carl Sciortino’s. Unfortunately, most of the issues don’t line up precisely with the Senate roll-calls, so there’s little opportunity for direct comparison.
But some of the issues do line up, as follows: Brownsberger and Sciortino voted against the casino bill (agreeing with Spilka; disagreeing with Clark); Sciortino voted against overriding the Governor’s veto of the RMV/undocumented immigrants bill (agreeing with Brownsberger; disagreeing with Clark and Spilka); and Sciortino voted in favor of a “three strikes” bill (disagreeing with Brownsberger; agreeing with Clark and Spilka).
Also worth noting about Sciortino: the only instances in which he deviated from ProgMA’s “progressive position” were on criminal sentencing bills. In addition to the “three strikes” bill, Sciortino voted in favor of a bill denying parole to habitual offenders.
Does any of this help you narrow things down? What issues matter most to you? Where are you leaning at this point?
UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader afertig, who made me aware that ProgMA has begun 2013-14 scorecards. So, here’s the 13-14 comparison of the MA-5 candidates currently in the Senate:
As before, let’s check out the differences, again quoting ProgMA’s descriptions (ProgMA’s descriptions of all the issues are available at this link).
2 (“Corporate influence, transportation, revenue: Vote was on an amendment to require the MBTA to develop a comprehensive advertising plan that included selling or leasing the naming rights of MBTA stations to corporations. (Roll call #25, Bill S1766, 4/13/2013, Progressive Position: No)” Brownsberger voted no; Clark and Spilka voted yes.
3 (“Revenue, investment, transportation: Vote was on an amendment to further increase the gas tax if the revenue generated was inadequate to fund MBTA operations and capital projects. (Roll Call #68, Bill S3, 5/23/2013, Progressive Position: Yes)” Brownsberger and Clark voted yes; Spilka voted no.
10 (“Welfare reform: Vote was on an amendment to the welfare reform bill requiring the State Auditor to conduct a cost-benefit analysis prior to the implementation of photo IDs on EBT cards.”) ProgMA’s “progressive position” was yes; Brownsberger and Spilka voted no; Clark voted yes.
And what were votes #7 and #11, on which all three voted the “wrong” way, per ProgMA? Vote 7 was “on an amendment to the FY 2014 budget that would require disclosure of compensation of mutual company executives” – that one actually got a lot of “yes” votes from Dems, so I wonder why these three all went the other way. Vote 11 was “on engrossment of the welfare reform bill,” on which only Senators Chang-Diaz and Eldridge voted no.
As before, the issues in ProgMA’s House rundown don’t line up with those tracked for the Senate, so we can’t easily compare Sciortino’s record to those of the sitting Senators. For whatever it’s worth, Sciortino is so far 9-for-9 with ProgMA on votes that ProgMA is tracking.