Tuesday September 4 is Primary Day, which is for many offices in Massachusetts the only Election Day that counts. For all that we complain about stasis on Beacon Hill, there are some notable opportunities to change the personnel and hopefully the culture.
Call these endorsements if you like. I’m usually quite late to making endorsements, because I like to see how races shake out, and I need the time to evaluate as much as anyone else. (Notable exception this year: Tommy Vitolo, our stomv, for State Rep in Brookline, since we’ve all known him for years, and he’s the person with the right expertise and experience at the right time.)
Suffolk DA: Rachael Rollins. Rollins is a former MBTA lawyer. She’s gathered the endorsements of many progressive, pro-justice leaders and organizations, including Senators Sonia Chang-Diaz and Will Brownsberger, prime movers behind the criminal justice reform law; and ProgressiveMass. It’s important that those folks coalesce around one candidate to change the old lock-em-up mentality represented by Greg Henning, who thinks he can sneak through with a divided progressive vote. Henning is the establishment pick of current DA Dan Conley, and manufactured some excuse to no-show a forum held by Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, one of the finest, noblest, and most effective organizations in town. That’s a thumb in the eye to GBIO’s diverse constituency, and you really have to wonder how he can represent the county if he blows them off.
Do look at Bobby Constantino’s amazingly thorough rundown of the issues involved in evaluating a DA candidate. This is how actual justice –fairness, real equality under the law — is accomplished. Rollins consistently comes out ahead of the pack. Here’s hoping she pulls out ahead of the pack.
Middlesex DA: Donna Patalano. It seems like incumbent Marian Ryan has done a better job than some had feared, given some bad press when she took the office. She’s got her supporters in the legislature, but she’s still got a staff turnover problem. I’m not close enough to those things to judge. But looking at Donna Patalano’s qualifications and agenda, this is an easy choice for me. She advocates data accountability for racial disparities, and limiting cash bail, an obvious inequity.
She also added an intriguing road safety plank to her platform, paying more attention to bicycling, walking, and other modes of transportation vis-a-vis law enforcement:
The implicit bias of many members of law enforcement, and people in general, is that people walking and biking who are involved in crashes are the cause of the incident, rather than the victim. This leads to investigations centered on the driver’s experience in a given incident, instead of the biker’s or pedestrian’s perspective.
With that, Ms. Patalano, you have my vote.
MA-3: Barbara L’Italien. It’s a strong field, but I’m looking for someone’s actual legislative background to show me where their concern lies. L’Italien has consistently been a voice for the most vulnerable populations, and has been out front on issues like marriage equality, well before it was easy. She got into politics to better advocate for her autistic son. That orientation is in her bones and in her votes, somewhat like Rep. Jim McGovern, and we need more of that full-throated advocacy for mercy and justice in Congress. I’ve heard that some of her forum performances were not the best; on the other hand, witness her unflappable surprise appearance on a predatory Fox News segment, and I can see someone up for the fight. She’s endorsed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge for many of the same reasons. Honorable mention to Alexandra Chandler, whose experience in the intelligence field is very much on-point these days.
MA-7: Ayanna Pressley. This is a tough one. Mike Capuano has not been working his way out of a job; there’s no particular dissatisfaction with him that precipitated Pressley’s challenge. He has fought effectively to bring home funding to his district — one has to wonder what would have happened to the Green Line extension without his advocacy, for example. He has been a consistent voice for immigrant populations for two decades. If he loses, the district loses his seniority, experience, connections, expertise and clout: In this WBUR debate he mentioned his personal impact on, for instance, local transportation, eg. the Silver Line to Chelsea. That is no small matter, and — let there be no mistake — it is not easily replaced. Go to 18:56:
Pressley was only ever going to win on her own strengths, not some manifest weakness of Capuano. And she has made a strong case for herself as a change-maker. To state the obvious: Representation does indeed matter, and having a black woman, a survivor of sexual assault, as representative is by definition going to change how the district is represented. Pressley’s mantra “those closest to the pain should be closest to the power” again relates to the meek-shall-inherit-the-earth attitude that, say, L’Italien also represents: Start at the bottom, the most vulnerable, the most humble. She has a record in the Boston City Council, and was a true trailblazer for a body that is now nearly half female-of-color — and ridiculously well-qualified, incidentally. They are moving the body forward in imaginative, visionary, progressive ways. I’ve often thought that I look forward to a time when those folks (along with Matt O’Malley, why not) graduate to even higher office. Well, here’s that opportunity; I might wish that she were taking on, say, Steve Lynch — or Charlie Baker. But here we are.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recently-surfaced video of Capuano discussing Colin Kaepernick’s protests of police violence, and discussion of identity politics. I have to say, it’s substandard and uninformed, particularly as compared to Beto O’Rourke’s more properly historical view that has gone viral recently. I don’t know how this fits into the context of Capuano’s representation of the district; for now, file under “not a good look”.
This is a close call, but if I lived in the district, I’d probably vote Pressley.
I’ll have more for State Rep and Senator races that I’ve been paying some attention to.