Our own Tommy Vitolo (stomv) was a long time climate activist, systems engineer, and wonk blogger right here at BMG before he got into the state house. Since that time he has accumulated a lot of legislative accomplishments on housing, climate, and LGBT issues by working with House leadership and his more moderate colleagues to get things done. This seems to me to be the mark of a reality based approach to progressive lawmaking.
That record of pragmatic progressivism has apparently invited a primary challenge to his left from Raul Fernandez who, like Tommy, is a Brookline selectman and fellow policy wonk (in this case education policy at my graduate alma mater BU Wheelock). This is the rare primary where I happen to know and like both candidates on a personal level, so by no means is this post a dig against Fernandez. I just question the wisdom, timing, and target of his primary challenge.
To Raul’s credit his critique is mostly substantive and wonky hitting Tommy for specific votes around improving transparency on Beacon Hill. I’ve long been on the record here bemoaning our lax rate of permanent incumbency and uncompetitive elections for the legislature. I’ve even been critical of Tommy for votes I disagreed with him on including voting for DeLeo’s last re-election, yet these are not the disqualifying votes begging for a primary challenger Raul makes them out to be. Particularly one as well financed and staffed as Raul’s.
Tommy does not have a 100% rating from Progressive Mass, which is apparently the main reason the organization is backing this primary which has attracted a lot of outside funding and campaign energy that could be better spent on the Fair Share amendment, protecting undocumented immigrants, and electing a Democrat to the Corner Office. There are also critical elections for Suffolk DA, Auditor, Attorney General, and Lieutenant Governor. Not to mention critical competitive congressional elections in NH, CT, and RI. Any of these efforts would be a better use of time.
At a time when outright anti-democracy candidates are on the ballot in neighboring states and avowed election deniers will win the Republican nominations for constitutional offices in our own state, I question the wisdom of targeting a reliable progressive just because he voted for Ron Mariano. Using that logic previous PM endorsed candidates like Mike Connolly should also be challenged by the organization.
If anything this primary gives truth to the reality that too many progressives cluster in the blue bubbles even within our own state. My own state representative in purple Wakefield is a relatively conservative Republican who is not even getting opposed. His office has yet to get back to me with his abortion stance, although I know from digging he voted against the Roe Act multiple times. I have no idea if PM has even bothered trying to create chapters in districts that routinely send conservative Democrats or Republicans to the statehouse, but this seems like an effort where we are eating one of our own. No offense to PM organizers who are doing important work I largely no longer have time to do, and no offense to Raul Fernandez who is a dedicated educator and activist who should be in the statehouse, but this primary seems really dumb.