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August 03, 2005

Second Middlesex open thread

I'm going to try an experiment here, just opening up a thread for thoughts on the Second Middlesex Senate race.  There's been a lot of back and forth in the comments to some previous posts, which is great, and I'd like to keep it going.

I would like to pose one question that I'd be most interested in your thoughts on.  We have two "progressive" candidates in this race, Joe Mackey and Pat Jehlen.  Based on their websites and their answers to questionnaires submitted to them by us (linked above) and by others, their positions are almost indistinguishable on most of the "issues," and both have represented Somerville in the State House (Mackey a few years back, Jehlen now).  Yet the "progressive interest group community" (if such a thing exists) appears to have lined up behind Jehlen; Mackey has picked up some endorsements, but not at the rate that Jehlen has.

Theories on why?  Do endorsements matter?  Other thoughts about the race?  Post away.

Posted by David at 03:08 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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I think that Rep. Jehlen has had more success gathering endorsements because she's been more connected with the progressive community in Somerville and throughout the state. While Mackey may share her values, he hasn't been nearly as present a voice in the community during the 15 years since he last held public office.

Posted by: eury13 | Aug 3, 2005 3:20:05 PM

Also, there is a strong sentiment in the progressive activist community to not split our support (as we did for Reich and Tolman or Dean and Kucinich). This manifests itself mostly in the Governor's race, I think, but may be happening in this race too. I am not in the district and don't know anything specific, but we progressives get together and talk a lot more than we used to before endorsing.

A counter-example is what's happening in the Lt. Gov race -- it seems pretty evenly split between Silbert and Goldberg in activist support. May be because there is less at stake.

Posted by: Noho-missives | Aug 3, 2005 3:40:48 PM

Somerville has tremendously high turnover. Many people in Somerville simply don't remember Mackey.

Do endorsements matter? Yup. If you add up the total number of members of all endorsers of Jehlen, you get 10,000+. Sure, that double counts a number of folks, but its likey to be over 5,000 unique individuals. They won't all vote, and the ones who do probably won't all vote for Jahlen. But, many will, and many will.

Those endorsements probably don't mean much to folks not already a member of the endorsing organization, but I do believe the endorsements are relevant to the rank-and-file members of the endorsing organization. Additionally, a well organized endorsing organization can also do tremendous GOTV efforts for the candidate, thereby freeing up his time for other efforts.

Posted by: stomv | Aug 3, 2005 3:52:39 PM

Somerville has tremendously high turnover. Many people in Somerville simply don't remember Mackey.
This is an interesting point. The biggest cities in the district - Somerville and Medford - are a big mix of 20-30-somethings who are likely to be "progressive" in their politics but who may not remember Mackey, and folks who have lived in the same house for 50 years. The latter may tend to be more conservative and therefore favor Callahan (or Casey, if he ever shows up). So the challenge for Mackey seems to be to explain to the voters who are in tune with his politics why they should support him rather than Jehlen, given that a good chunk of those voters know Jehlen as a current state rep and don't know who Mackey is.

Posted by: David | Aug 3, 2005 3:59:46 PM

David, thanks for doing this. A great idea.

I feel a little bit like the support for Jehlen was a fait accompli in the "progressive" world, which speaks well to her networking, and also to the fact that she's a current office-holder, after all. However, Mackey is a thoroughly progressive candidate as well. It would seems that of the two, it's Jehlen's "turn", since she's in office now, but I'm not convinced that's a good enough reason to support her over him.

The preponderance of endorsements and momentum *does* matter. This is politics, not grocery shopping, and making a "boutique" choice -- i.e. based on idiosyncratic personal preference -- is not a good idea. (Ralph Nader says hi.)

There's another factor: personality. I would love to hear folks' impressions of what Mackey and Jehlen are like as people: energy level; commitment; ability to work with and influence others, *especially* those with whom they have major disagreements; etc. That's kind of an X-factor in the day-to-day workings of legislation.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Aug 3, 2005 4:53:58 PM

As I posted some months ago, I still don't understand why the primary election was scheduled for August 30. I'm also surprised not to have heard much discussion of this issue. It seems to me that the scheduling will - whether intended or not - depress turnout. The cities in the District have municipal elections later in the fall. I'm thinking that, unless there is some prohibition in Massachusetts election law, the Secretary of State's office could have coordinated this special election around those elections.

Posted by: David Eisenthal | Aug 3, 2005 8:29:30 PM

To address the question of personality (because I certainly think that is something worth considering) -

Jehlen built coalitions in the House to get attention for her priorities (such as emergency contraceptive coverage and raising the minimum wage). This was under an unfriendly speaker (Finneran) and more than one Republican governor. You can't get that done only working with your best friends. She's been an effective coalition builder.

She's also popular with her constituents. She was re-elected last year with 81% of the vote and has held the seat for 7 terms. Her endorsements also speak to her ability to connect and work with people and groups.

Unfortunately, I can't comment on Mackey. (I wasn't paying attention to local politics when he was in office in the 80's.)

Posted by: eury13 | Aug 3, 2005 11:01:46 PM

Endorsements? the “True Progressive”? Positions? Issues? No, I believe Mr. Eisenthal has brought up the real issue; Turnout.

Casey & Callahan may appear weak but when all those 70 year old + voters show up at the polls while all the 30 year old progressives are sitting on the Head of the Meadow beach in Truro with their kids on August 30th you might be in for a surprise. Scheduling a special election 6 days before the biggest summer holiday; why Mr. Eisenthal I’m shocked, shocked you would suggest voter suppression. (Casablanca reference intentional)

This election is about voter ID & GOTV (get out the vote)

One Medford candidate, 16 precincts and an elderly voter demographic; if the Callahan people can’t pull this off they can only blame themselves.

Posted by: no horse in this race | Aug 4, 2005 10:49:36 AM

I agree that turnout is everything, and that turnout is a major concern for an August 30 primary. But why would Travaglini, whose views appear much closer to Jehlen/Mackey's than to Casey/Callahan's, intentionally set a date that seems likely to favor the latter over the former?

Posted by: David | Aug 4, 2005 10:58:06 AM

I'm sure that if he gave this any thought, he was happy to schedule a date when party insiders would have as much control over the process as possible.

Posted by: Brittain33 | Aug 4, 2005 11:18:02 AM

I think Eury hit the nail on the head about Jehlen's endorsements being a reflection of her current position and networks as sitting Rep. Noho is also right on in recognizing that the prorgressive community has learned a great deal over the last few years, and lining up behind Jehlen is the pragmatic thing to do. The reality is that Jehlen has been an unwavering voice for progressive concerns for the last 15 years, and she has the record to prove it. She has the experience, the networks, the voting record, and the moral conviction that progressives want in a state senator, so why would they consider another progressive candidate who has been out of office for 15 years, and previously lost this very same race (Mackey lost the Democratic primary in 1992, and his campaign is why Shannon won that year)?

The progressive community has learned that they have to be more pragmatic, and they are showing that in this race.

The turnout issue... well, that's the x-factor, isn't it...

Posted by: Sean | Aug 5, 2005 11:25:23 PM

The scheduling..obviously Trav scheduled it to help out his favorite candidate. Most likely that is Callahan.

Posted by: the troll | Aug 6, 2005 3:44:37 PM

I donot think the endorsements fore Jehlen mean alot. Most have cross over membership and each was very predictable. Not impressed.

Posted by: the troll | Aug 6, 2005 3:45:44 PM

"No horse in the race" gets it. This is politics people not a fight of good v evil. And unfortunately progressives have a self rightous attitude, much like far right wingers, which is a big turn off to many. And remember. Most voters are moderates.
But Trav obviously does not want Jehlen in the Senate. Otherwise he would have scheduled it after labor day.
This is not rocket science.

Posted by: the troll | Aug 6, 2005 3:50:06 PM

Maybe Trav wants a senator that he can work with. Jehlen has a history of not workiong well with others. She only can work with peoiple that agree with her completly. Not a good quality for a legislator.

Posted by: the troll | Aug 6, 2005 3:51:56 PM

You argue that Jehlen is difficult to work with, but going back to the endorsements, she has the vocal support of 2 dozen legislators from both houses. That's more state house support than any other candidate has. Does that mean that no one wants any of them in the senate?

Posted by: eury13 | Aug 8, 2005 12:45:07 PM

Maybe the reps weant her gone from the House. But sdhe is apolicy wonk with lousy record of constituent services and delivering for the district. She only works well with those that agree wityh her, such as the 24 legislators aout of 200 that endorse her.

Posted by: the troll | Aug 8, 2005 1:22:43 PM

The more I look at these comments the more I feel that there is no real discussion here.

The Mackey & Jehlen people can try to shape the discussion through surrogates (hello troll & hello eury13) but is it really going to matter? If you have taken the time to find “bluemassgroup” I’m pretty sure you can cut through the spin from the campaigns.

Can someone give me a good educated guess on what the 2nd Middlesex will look like on September 1st?

Posted by: the sound of one hand clapping | Aug 8, 2005 4:27:19 PM

I'm a Jehlen partisan, but getting that out of the way, here's what I've heard and observed:

1. Jehlen has a great ground game and is going to dig up a lot of votes from young liberals and transplants. Whether that's enough to make her win is a big question, but Dot Gay and Carl Sciortino proved those people are out there and will turn out to vote if someone talks to them in their language. Her people are getting out there.
2. Callahan is the only guy from Medford and seems to be staking out good territory in the center.
3. This seems to leave Mackey between two pincers, because he's been running as Jehlen's ideological soul mate but he won't get any of her voters. I don't know how many votes he can wring out of Old Somerville alone but I don't think he passes Callahan.
4. No one seems to consider Casey a contender. You can't be both the only conservative in the race and from Winchester. And unimpressive on top of that.

So Jehlen turns out her voters and wins, or else Callahan takes it. That's how I see it. Troll's not a Mackey sockpuppet.

Posted by: Brittain33 | Aug 8, 2005 4:52:42 PM

I get it. Because I am not a jehlen fan I must be with the candidate who causes her the most trouble (Mackey)
No, i am an independent thinker.
Thanks for stickin' up for me Britain. You r familiar enough with my rants to know I am against most everybody.
And isn't Kelly Gay not supporting Jehlen because she thinks she is a lousy rep? ie. she does crap for the district.

Posted by: The troll | Aug 9, 2005 8:45:14 AM

Yeah, Kelly Gay is with Mackey and had some choice words for Pat Jehlen when her campaign kicked off.

What I was referring to was that in her first run for mayor, her campaign targeted infrequent women voters who they thought would dirty their hands in a city primary to vote for a liberal woman. It was an unusual strategy, because none of those people normally get involved in city politics, but it worked for her. The people are out there if they can get motivated. You can't do it easily for city races, but you can make state legislative races about the issues they care about.

Posted by: Brittain33 | Aug 9, 2005 11:04:28 AM

Kely Gay had more going on for her. especially her wok with the nurses union. They are not powerful, but they know how to organize.
I get the feeling from the comments that people don't realise how big and how diverse this district is, including Somerville. Many moderates in Somerville. Many with long time roots. Mackey's are well known family. You would be surprised how many people who live in Somerville have been there more then 5 years, more then 10 even.
This is common problem when people think there small circle represent "everyone" .

As for Trav being more in line with Jehlen in political thinking, who cares? It is more about personalities and Jehlen offers nothing in the rough and tumble world leading to compromise, which is what politics is about.
Not a team player unless everyone agrees with her.

Posted by: the troll | Aug 9, 2005 11:13:25 AM

POP QUiuz. (just to see if there is any institutional memory in this blog)
1. Can anyone tell me what the very public controversy (nationally reported) was concerning Mackey's brother years back?

2. Has anyone confirmed ( and proved Globe wrong)that Shannon was originally elected to the Senate as a democrat then switched to repub during weld administration, then switched back to dem.
Britain, ask Jehlen about that

Posted by: the troll | Aug 9, 2005 11:17:00 AM

I won't deny my partisanship towards Jehlen in this race. I've said as much in the past.

Speaking as impartially as I can, it's Jehlen's race to lose. Mackey isn't getting any traction and Casey's a no-show. Callahan's got a lot of signs up, but people aren't going to show up to vote if they aren't enthusiastic about a candidate, so that kind of "oh yeah, I saw his name on a sign" recognition probably isn't going to help him.

But really, for a race like this, it's all about GOTV on election day and who can actually bring their supporters to the polls.

My question is this - in response to people talking about "constituent services"; what have Casey and Mackey (when he was a rep 15 years ago) done that Jehlen hasn't? What has Callahan done that Jehlen hasn't? She's gotten good legislation passed (prescription advantage, raising minimum wage, emergency contraception coverage). Are these not considered important to her constituents?

Posted by: eury13 | Aug 9, 2005 11:34:50 AM

Bring home the bacon. Plus Jehlen had as much to do with the passage of those bills as the batboy had in the red sox winning the world series. She signed on and voted for them.
You are right, the race is between Jehlen and Callahan. Callahan will get voters to come out, especially medford voters. Do not underestimate a local politician with winning personality and a history of returning calls and trying to help constituents on a one to one basis. Plus, even though he has been in Gov.s Council for short time, he has been around a long long time and has made many many friends who will be happy to show up at the polls to give him a vote. Thgis is much stronger then an ideolical bent.

Posted by: the troll | Aug 9, 2005 12:18:35 PM

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