We’re barely three weeks away from the opening of the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s caucus season. With open races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and treasurer, I’m still not fully decided on my candidate for any office. We have some good people, each with strengths and question marks. How about you? I’d love to hear folks who have decided make the case for their candidate; I’d love to hear the considerations being pondered by those undecided like myself.
Here’s my take (this is top of my head, so I hope I don’t miss anyone — listings are alphabetical):
Joe Avellone: I don’t think he’ll be making the primary. Most people I’ve spoken with are not really on board with the tone of the campaign (as a former CEO, I can tell you how to keep businesses happy). His education platform is perhaps the most detailed of his issue platforms. An interesting proposal is pre-K for underperforming school districts, to help close the achievement gap. I note that New York State, long a bastion of dysfunction, passed universal Pre-K a few days ago. Avellone’s take on the jobs situation is that companies are leaving Massachusetts because they can’t find people with the “mid-level work skills” they need to grow. What do people think about that?
Avellone, of course, has been a healthcare exec for some time. He says our healthcare system has suffered from bureaucracy and that a Coordinated Care model can help. Like Don Berwick, Avellone is a doctor (he was a surgeon) who worked in healthcare administration for many years. But their takes on what our healthcare system needs diverge greatly.
Don Berwick: I am intrigued by Don Berwick. His convention speech last year was excellent and he blew away the crowd at the recent candidate’s forum in JP. He’s been portrayed as a one-issue candidate, but I don’t think he is. I wonder if he can shake that perception. Of course, his signature issue may take on increased importance as rumblings begin about Massachusetts following Vermont into single-payer-land. A Berwick-Baker general would be fascinating. Two very different views of health care.
I was impressed that he came out against the casino law and said we can’t rely on such shady gimmicks to fund vital public services. Still, budget and job creation issues are not covered directly on Berwick’s website (though investment in transportation is), so I’d like to hear more. I also don’t know if Berwick can raise enough money to compete with the big names, or if he’d know where to begin in dealing with the legislature if he won. Keeping an eye on him, looking for some kind of surge.
Martha Coakley: I’m having trouble getting enthusiastic about the front-runner in polling to date. Numerous people on BMG have stressed episodes in her record that reflect poorly on her character or political viewpoints. On the other hand, Coakley’s AGO has done great things in the areas of civil rights and consumer protection (including landmark foreclosure litigation). She says the right things on the issues, but for some reason I’m not picking up sufficient passion or core principles out of Coakley. My concern remains that she has name recognition and her supporters (including Emily’s List) will lead her to a primary victory, but she will lose in the general. Many activists just don’t like her, either personally or because of her 2010 run or other things in her record. She’s running harder than she did for Senate but I’m not sure she can win the corner office, or how much I want her to.
Steve Grossman: At this point I’m leaning toward Grossman. He’s been a leader on the earned sick time and minimum wage issues, out in front of other candidates by years. Having seen him speak at last year’s convention, I was pleasantly surprised by his oratory. He sounded passionate and convincing, not at all the boring garden-variety pol I’ve heard him portrayed as. As the owner of a successful business, even if he did inherit it, he can speak credibly against Charlie Baker’s insinuations that Democrats just want to tax everyone out of business and the Republican way is the only way to run a company profitably. My concern is that, beyond the minimum wage and sick leave issues, he might not rock the boat much. We really do need the investment in our state that Gov. Patrick has been mostly unable to get from the legislature.
Juliette Kayyem: Can’t really get a good sense of her. If I was impressed by Berwick’s take on the casino deal, I was dismayed by Kayyem’s statement that the casino revenues are essential to keeping our schools funded. Her website lists access to quality public education as Issue Number One, and says we must “Find new and innovative funding mechanisms to ensure schools receive adequate funding during difficult fiscal times.” Doesn’t sound like she’ll be fighting for increased revenue the old-fashioned way. She does, however, address income inequality on her issues page. She has a civil rights background. I don’t know what to make of her Homeland Security credentials. She’s shown she can administer a large public agency, and she’s knowledgeable about those issues. I’m not sure how much those issues will matter in this year’s race, and I don’t know if she can beat Charlie Baker.
(UPDATE: In the comments, Christopher reminded me of a couple of candidates I had omitted. My apologies.)
James Arena-DeRosa: A USDA administrator from Holliston, he entered the race just before Christmas and I missed it. As MassLive reports: “Arena-DeRosa worked for the USDA for three years, overseeing federal food and nutrition programs throughout the Northeast. He previously spent nearly a decade as the Peace Corps’ New England regional director. Before that, he was director of public advocacy for Oxfam America, the anti-poverty organization.” He wants to focus on poverty issues and says that “we can do better” than “record stock market highs yet record hunger.” I agree and I’ll be taking a look at his campaign.
Jonathan Edwards: A selectman from the town of Whately, Edwards says he wants to focus on clean energy (which he calls the “next jobs revolution), economic development, and better collaboration between the Commonwealth and its municipalities. His website touts his experience in local government and his vision for fighting climate change while improving our economy. He entered the race in mid-December and has been making the rounds at DTC meetings, but I haven’t had a chance to see him yet.
Steve Kerrigan: A former Ted Kennedy staffer with local government experience in Lancaster, he worked with Boston 2004 (the mayor’s agency for the 2004 DNC) and served as CEO of the 2012 DNC in Charlotte and organized the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. He also worked as Chief of Staff to AG Tom Reilly. I’ve heard good things from people who know him, but I’ve never seen him in person. Kerrigan’s vision for the LG’s office is as an ombudsman for Massachusetts residents and businesses having trouble navigating state government. He suggests that we can seek efficiencies (including revisiting outdated corporate tax breaks) to free up funds to invest in our core priorities. Again, broad strokes. I’d like to hear more. For example, Kerrigan says we must take “a hard look” at the rising cost of public higher education. What does that mean?
Mike Lake: Mike has worked in operations at the Clinton White House, where he streamlined things, and in development for the United Way of Merrimack Valley. He’s been out there getting after it, all over the state. I’ve said that I find the issues platform on his website a bit thin on details, and his stump speech doesn’t dispel that impression. His vision for the LG’s office seems to be largely as an ambassador (particularly internationally) to bring new business to Massachusetts, something Mike’s already been doing to some extent as President and CEO of Leading Cities. By growing the economic pie, we can better fund our public services (which he says are in need of additional revenues) without simply raising taxes on those already here.
Maura Healey: Until very recently a Deputy AG (Christopher says, correctly, that she’s left the office in the past month to pursue her campaign), Healey worked closely with Martha Coakley for some time. To her credit, she was the head of the Civil Rights division at a time when that division was doing some excellent work. Her website (still ab bit skimpy) touts her experience and acccomplishments in the AG’s office. I recall that she came on here and some people were not satisfied with her answers to specific queries about issues like expanding wiretapping. My sense is that, unless Healey identifies some areas where her position differs from Coakley’s (and thus far she’s expressed nothing but admiration for her current boss), a vote for her would be something of a vote for the status quo at the AG’s office. She’s never run for anything like statewide office before, so it remains to be seen if she can match the experience and connections someone like Warren Tolman has. She played pro basketball in Austria for a couple of years, which is cool. She has been endorsed by the MassEquality PAC.
Hank Naughton: Reported to be considering LG run before announcing for AG instead. A state rep from the Central Mass. town of Clinton for nearly 20 years, he is the chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Naughton is a former ADA who joined the Army Reserve following the September 11 attacks. His website, like Healey’s, is scant at this point (perhaps more scant than Healey’s: a brief bio and a 2-minute video), but I know he’s been speaking about reducing gun violence and he has a strong interest in veterans’ issues. Would like to know more.
Warren Tolman: Another candidate without much substance on the website. He says he’s running to “fight waste, fraud, and abuse,” and to “protect the environment, consumers, taxpayers, and victims of crime.” He also posted on BMG and has been speaking about a proposal to make handguns sold in Massachusetts operable only when authorized fingerprints activate them. I don’t know how much that will help if other states, including our neighbors to the north, don’t have the same requirements. Tolman is well-known among Massachusetts liberal activists, particularly in the Boston area, and some people on BMG expressed enthusiasm about him getting in the race. He appears to be doing well in the fundraising department. A state legislator for eight years, he narrowly lost the LG race in 1998 and fell short of the 2002 nomination for Governor. Many will recall he ran on a clean elections platform that year. He has strong labor ties, with his brother Steve as head of the state AFL-CIO.
Treasurer (I don’t have much to say about these folks):
Tom Conroy: State rep from Wayland, co-chair (with Dan Wolf) of the Joint Committee on labor and Workforce Development. He bills himself as a “progressive Democrat” but I’ve heard said he’s not as progressive as he claims. I couldn’t say with any confidence myself if there’s merit to that. Would like to hear more.
Barry Finegold: State senator from Andover. Hasn’t yet declared but assumed to be entering the field. Perhaps best known as a champion of lifting the charter school cap, something I strenuously oppose. His record suggests he’s generally more interested in cutting spending than in raising revenue.
Deb Goldberg: Many here recall her 2006 run for LG. She also served as a Brookine selectman for 6 years and is an elected town meeting member. Her immigrant great-great-grandmother’s grocery store grew into Stop-n-Shop, and she worked as executive (and a checkout clerk) there for a time. She has a website, but it contains only a bio and donation/email buttons. I’ve heard said locally that she’s the most progressive of the three.
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Feel free to take issue with any of my characterizations and to add info that will flesh out the picture. For those who have picked candidates, please tell us who your choices are and why. Inquiring (and undecided) minds wanna know.