I think about this in much the same way I would look at hiring for a top job in any organization. In this circumstance, we have two talented and accomplished people in the organization (in this case, elected officials), and two promising newcomers.
The first decision I have to make is simple. Is there a reason to bypass the people with a record of achievement in the organization for a talented newcomer, or in Globe terms a promising amateur? Looking at Martha Coakley and Mike Capuano, I must say the answer is no. There is nothing in the record to disqualify Coakley or Capuano from serious considertion, and there is nothing about Pagliuca or Khazei that trumps the positive work history of our loyal elected officials.
Now that I have sent polite rejection letters to Khazei and Pagliuca, hoping they will try again for something closer to an entry-level position, I need to make a choice between the two top candidates. Here’s the way I come to my decision.
Capuano’s experience is closer to the job than Coakley’s. A congressman’s job responsibilities are closer to a US Senator’s responsibilities, so I have a real sense of how Capuano would handle this particular job. In the case of Capuano, I like what I see. I see a passionate, hard-working legislator with a strong record of constituent services. Coakley has a strong record of achievement as a District Attorney and Attorney General, but it’s a different kind of job. Capuano has a slight lead in my decision-making process.
Looking at the two candidates as people, I can look at the interviews and look at the way I have interacted with them over the past dozen years.
When I first met Martha Coakley, I wasn’t particularly ready to like her. She came across on TV as cold and dispassionate. Meeting her in person changed my mind. She is a warm and caring person, who is in this business for all the right reasons. I was glad to support her for DA, and glad to support her for Attorney General. I like the job she is doing as Attorney General.
I also like Mike Capuano. I met him six years ago in Washington. As a school committee member, I was in Washington as part of the National School Board Association’s annual lobbying efforts.
2003 and 2004 were dismal times for lobbying Congress, particularly if you were from Massachusetts. The Bush administration had Congress locked down. When we caucused with school board members from around the country, we heard two things. The people who were talking to the Republicans were complaining of the considerable pressure for the majority to follow the leadership and the Bush administration policies. The Democrats were complaining that they were powerless in the minority, but kept asking us to see if we could influence Senator Kennedy to do something about NCLB.
Our visit to Mike Capuano’s office was different. While others in the Massachusetts delegation were clearly deferring to Senator Kennedy, Mike Capuano sang a different song. Capuano described why NCLB was a bad law, drew on his experience as a mayor (and school committee chair) to detail why it was a bad law, and said that even though he loved Senator Kennedy he couldn’t support this legislation.
He was candid, he was his own person, and he wasn’t afraid to go against the flow when he knew the prevailing thought was wrong.
This isn’t the only time Mike Capuano stood out from the pack. His opposition to the Patriot Act was another vote against the prevailing opinion at the time, another case where history proves Mike Capuano to be right.
With all due respect to Martha Coakley, she hasn’t had the opportunity to take legislative positions. She may have the same views, take the same stands, and be just as good as Mike Capuano. But I don’t know that. And that’s my tiebreaker.
Mike has been an excellent Congressman, and deep down in my heart I know what I am getting. I like it what I am getting. I like Mike. I also want to reward that kind of behavior by the Massachusetts delegation.
I vote to advance Mike’s candidacy, and I hope you will agree.