All the candidates have deep roots in East Boston, all of them obviously have a lot of affection for it, and I don’t doubt that they’d all work hard for their constituents if elected. (By the way, Hubster has been covering this race like a rug — he’s published interviews with 3 of the 4 candidates, with the 4th soon to come, and he has written other stories on the race as well. Check him out for more info on this race.) However, from the progressive perspective, two of the candidates can be ruled out right away. Carlo Basile has publicly backed Republicans in the two gubernatorial elections — Romney in 2002, Healey in 2006. Basile perhaps tried to back away from his DINO-ish reputation today by backing in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants, but then circled back to it by unequivocally opposing same-day voter registration.
Mary Berninger emerged as the conservative in this race. She’s against in-state tuition, in favor of rolling the income tax back to 5.0%, and was the only solidly pro-casino voice on the stage. She also opposes same-day voter registration, and called for requiring a photo ID on election day. To combat the non-existent epidemic of voter fraud, apparently. That’s all fine, if you’re into that kind of thing.
That leaves Jeff Drago and Gloribell Mota. Drago is a proud product of the Menino machine — he worked for four years as Mayor Menino’s East Boston neighborhood liaison, an experience that he mentioned every chance he got in today’s forum, and more recently held another city job working on economic development (according to his bio, “where he has assisted small and local businesses in East Boston in obtaining grants, loans and technical-assistance monies”). He’s also tight with ex-Senator Travaglini (who calls him a “friend,”, and who appears prominently in a photo on Drago’s home page), and with Sen. Petruccelli, who spoke at his campaign kickoff and who appears elsewhere on the site as well. He was the most overtly partisan of all the candidates, mentioning several times this morning how bad federal and state Republican administrations have been for East Boston, and how he has only worked for and supported Democrats (a not-so-subtle dig at Basile, most likely). Drago is only 28 years old, so he appears to have spent his entire career in city government, and is now looking to move up.
Most of Drago’s stands on the issues are standard-issue Democratic, perhaps even leaning a bit left. He favors in-state tuition; he opposes the death penalty (as do all the candidates); and opposes rolling the income tax back because, he says, it means losing needed services. However, borrowing a page from Senator Petruccelli’s playbook, he says we need to do more study and answer more questions on same-day voter registration before we move forward with it. (What more is there to study? Seven states have it; it works fine there and seems to boost voter turnout; and voter fraud — always given as the reason not to do it — is a totally fake issue. Give me a break.)
Mota is a different story. Her background has been in both the public sector (working for Councillor Felix Arroyo) and the non-profit sector– she’s worked with the East Boston Health Center, ABCD, and affordable housing organizations, as well as United for a Fair Economy. She was the Executive Director of the Mary Ellen McCormack Task Force in South Boston, where she worked on job training and placement among other issues. She’s a solid progressive on the issues, including support for same-day voter registration. She strongly believes in involving the community in the decisions that impact it — when Charley and I met with her a few weeks back, she told us over and over again that she wants to boost civic engagement in her community as a way of empowering it. Also, as the daughter of El Salvadoran and Dominican immigrants, she is the only candidate who speaks Spanish in a community that is rapidly changing — according to the Globe, East Boston was relatively recently an overwhelmingly Italian neighborhood but is now about 40% Latino.
Mota is right on all the issues; she’s a passionate advocate for her community; she’s worked hard for organizations that are all about helping people who are in need, and she’s been successful doing it. She has the most interesting and varied background of any of the candidates. She’s got the backing of solid progressive organizations, like Mass. Alliance, Neighbor to Neighbor, and Oiste. And, if Jon Keller is to be believed, we could use more women and people of color in our government. Here’s hoping the people of the 1st Suffolk district vote to send her to Beacon Hill on September 25.