Special Election Primary Potpourri

There has been a flurry of announcements and non-announcements in the special election as everyone but Gaspar Griswold Bacon enjoys a moment in the limelight before remembering that pressing business or family time prevail over service. We’ve had Gerry Leone and Bill Weld, continued misdiagnosis of the Scott Brown 2010 victory, and Brown giving birth to a new GOP chair then abandoning her at the nearest safe haven.  And Tagg Romney, we hardly knew ye.

Middlesex DA Gerry Leone moved from unknown-unknown to known-unknown back to known-known pretty quickly. As a former boxer Leone saw that he “coulda been a contender.” And he might have too, but the campaign laws favor candidates with a full federal bank account. His Democratic opponents have establishment money (DSCC for Markey) and labor (Lynch) behind them. DAs raise money from trial lawyers and Leone would have to start from scratch to build a federal account and get 10,000 signatures. He was the sort of known-unknown that could have turned the race upside down if given sufficient time.

Tagg Romney has a famous name of questionable utility in this state (there is no Mormon Camelot) and no record of public service. When I mentioned on Facebook that my most recent recollections of Tagg were his offer to punch out President Obama after a debate and the farcical claim that his father had to be prodded into the 2012 race, my friend Professor Edmund Beard wrote back that “Tagg also aggressively opposed a small, inconspicuous hospice care facility in his Belmont neighborhood.” Tagg will not bear any burden; out he goes.

Robert Kuttner wrote a piece for the Boston Sunday Globe What is the future of the Massachusetts Democratic Party? Or, as the headline in the print version asked, “Can state Democratic reformers transform the ‘wait your turn’ culture?” Lynch and Markey would qualify as what I have called “it’s my turn” candidates; Leone would be an outsider. In an often thoughtful piece, Kuttner nonetheless wrote that “Democrats bungled the special election of January 2010.” No no no no no! As several scholars have shown turnout in Democratic strongholds was a problem but that was because jobs remained scarce and Obama was not seen as addressing employment effectively. Neither had the Democrats done anything (farewell Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner) on the mortgage foreclosure crisis. But even if Martha Coakley had channeled Ann Richards and John Walsh performed his usual magic, the context of the race favored the Republican. But none of us saw that Black Swan.

For her first day on the job new Massachusetts Republican Party Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes had an interesting time. Former Senator Brown had worked the phones with RSC members for Hughes. She won the chair 41-39, apparently with some members having cast a ballot for her believing it would assist Brown in the 2013 special election. She now has little time to unite a divided party that harbors the idea that the Mass. GOP can again shake up the world. The last chairman, Bob Maginn, showed that I was very unkind in comparing him to Mr. Magoo – can Magoo ever forgive me?

Before the Mass GOP runs off into the embrace of another Romney it might remember that it was Mitt who imposed Maginn on them, although according to what Maginn said when he resigned, “I have not heard the voice of the Lord calling me to seek reelection as chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party at this time.” I’d be inclined to place this mess at the feet of Mitt and not the Lord. Mitt Romney treated the Mass GOP the way he treated some tool and die plant in the Midwest: suck the value out and leave the husk.


About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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