The Primary Numbers: A Nomination to Challenge the Chief…
Democrats in Massachusetts are at an odd crossroads. The national moment should have made the party and Massachusetts ascendant along with progressive alternatives to the taint in Washington. Instead, among elected Democrats here, there seems little more than limp opposition to the milquetoast, if not evil program emanating from the current chief executive of the Commonwealth, Charlie Baker.
Yet nonetheless, his Excellency enjoys stellar approval ratings. Life is good in Massachusetts, sheltered as we are from the toxic vapors wafting off Donald Trump’s person. Yet such would be a simplistic assessment. Our needs are plenty, from the environment to transportation to healthcare and Democrats need someone who can draw a clear contrast—and yet strike Baker’s strengths.
Two are left competing for the Democratic nomination: former Deval Patrick cabinet secretary Jay Gonzalez and environmental and business activist Bob Massie. Both have virtues and are unafraid to call out Baker’s anodyne administration.
That said our choice in the primary is Jay Gonzalez.
This blog has had little taste for any of our Commonwealth’s Republican governors, but Baker—though moderate in tone—has led us to pine for the days of Republicans past. They at least stoked, perhaps unintentionally, a robust legislative process. His inertia has ground the Beacon Hill to a halt. What seems like political comity is really inactivity, a state that effectively leaves Baker unaccountable. It must stop.
We believe Gonzalez can provide the counterbalance to Baker’s manager shtick. Their resumes are eerily similar. Both served as Secretary of Administration & Finance under popular governors. Both went on to work in health insurance. But Baker acts like he’s managing the decline of a once-great American icon while inflating morale with empty rhetoric. Gonzalez is substantively ambitious, raising expectations for our Commonwealth.
Massie has a compelling biography and a real commitment to environmentalism. We agree heartily with his siren on the need to move the Commonwealth off fossil fuels immediately if not yesterday. He touts that transition as a commercial opportunity and it is.
However, we feel that it will take that contrast and that energetic diagnosis of Baker’s inadequacies. It is not that there is some virtue in being disagreeable, which we do not believe Gonzalez is, but it will take verve and forthrightness to stand out.
Gonzalez has that. He has been beating the drum on numerous issues that will be the difference between Massachusetts’s success or its mediocrity. From childcare to a willingness to take on the Bay State’s own robber barons to infrastructure, his goals matches his energy.
Gonzalez executed Governor Patrick’s fiscal policy for the middle part of his administration. It was a tough time fiscally, which we know from the many Springfield budgets we observed. We are confident in Gonzalez’s ability to not just manage, but challenge Baker’s management.
We add that while both Gonzalez and Massie have made a commitment to Western Massachusetts, we have to offer Gonzalez this much extra credit. Patrick expected his cabinet to govern for the whole state and be present throughout it state regularly. Gonzalez has discussed this on the trail and we expect he will do the same should he become governor.
This blog has no illusions about the tall task before the Democratic nominee. But if that task can be managed by anybody, it is by Jay Gonzalez, our choice for the Democratic nomination for governor.
If the Democratic gubernatorial contest has suffered from neglect, than the battle for the number two spot has been overshadowed. The race is tough to assess. The winner, who will face Baker’s LT Karyn Polito, will never nearly as much attention—on the trail or in office—as their running mates barring a problem.
However, it is important for two reasons. The lieutenant governor candidate can both assist in raising money and in doubling the presence of the ticket, effectively Polito’s duties today.
Comedian and political commentator Jimmy Tingle and attorney and former White House staffer Quentin Palfrey could potentially fill these roles. However, our choice is Palfrey being equipped to complement Gonzalez.
Normally we would look for some other kind of balance. Four years ago lieutenant governor nominee Steve Kerrigan offered LGBT balance. Patrick’s LT, Tim Murray, was offered geographic balance as Worcester’s mayor. Years ago Governor Dukakis’s LT offered gender balance.
None of these are an option this time. We are compelled to look elsewhere for complements. Tingle, whom we understand resonates well in some working-class communities, could be a helpful communicator. However, we’re not sure that’s enough.
By contrast we have no doubt Palfrey can help raise money. Moreover, his long career in and out of public service grants him the tools to help Gonzalez deconstruct Baker’s illusory success.
We recommend Quentin Palfrey as the Democratic nominee for governor.