An unimpressive group of Democrats
Editor’s Note: The original Dec. 2 version of this column incorrectly referred to Massachusetts Senate candidate Alan Khazei’s “defense of President Obama’s plan in Afghanistan.” In his campaign, Khazei has opposed the president’s strategy, saying that it “isn’t in out best interest as a nation,” according to his Nov. 17 article on The Huffington Post. Updated Dec. 8, 2009.
Next Tuesday, Massachusetts voters will hopefully stream to the polls to choose their Democratic and Republican candidates for U.S. Senate. An incredibly short primary campaign fast approaches its finale even though it still feels as though Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy died just yesterday. This is not due to the grief in the wake of his death or the hysteria that surrounded his funeral and burial. The lack of interest that seems to have been generated by the primary campaign can be blamed squarely on the candidates running. Not a single one of them has distinguished him or herself above the others, especially on the Democratic side. For the Republicans, it appears state Sen. Scott Brown will easily win, only to eventually be trounced, assuredly, by the Democratic candidate. Who his opponent will be remains to be seen, but if I had my pick, I would like to choose E: None of the above.
This whole campaign has felt like the Republican presidential campaign with each of the candidates jumping to compare themselves to a dead predecessor. For Mitt Romney, John McCain and others, it was President Reagan. For Martha Coakley, Steve Pagliuca, Alan Khazei and Mike Capuano, it is Kennedy. Yet there is much to be desired.
I thought I knew who I was going to vote for and I had already formed my opinion at least a year and a half ago. But with the election getting closer and closer, what I thought was a perfect reasoning for supporting Capuano has faded into utter confusion. None of the candidates are head and shoulders above the others. Starting with Capuano, there are plenty of reasons for one to go from supporter to just another disillusioned Massachusetts voter.
Capuano’s take-no-prisoners attitude, called “Kennedy-esque” in the Boston Herald’s endorsement, is what first attracted me to him. Though a graduate of Dartmouth College and Boston College Law School, he has fought for the working class and carries himself as such. Yet, his ties to Rep. John Murtha and the prolific Washington D.C. lobbyist, PMA Group, as reported by the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Globe, make it hard to support him unconditionally.
Federal authorities are investigating PMA for a pay-to-play scheme in which the group gave campaign funds to members of Congress in exchange for earmarks and contracts. In fact, Capuano was ranked by Congressional Quarterly 11th on a list of 104 “Congressmen who had sponsored earmarks … for PMA Group clients” according to the Boston Phoenix. Capuano has since donated the money to Boston-area charities, but according to the Boston Globe, he had not returned all of it. If he is elected to the Senate, a position of more power and influence, will he remain an easy target for lobbyists?
The other career politician in the race is Martha Coakley who has run her campaign the way any presumed frontrunner should. Her poll position suggests she is on the way to an easy win on December 8, but this raises plenty of questions. Her eagerness to run for the Senate was never hidden. And though her ambition is well-deserved as she has moved steadily upward in Massachusetts politics, from Middlesex District Attorney to Attorney General, is it too much? Will she be fulfilled being just one of a 100 senators?
For too long, Massachusetts’ representatives in the Senate have been overly concerned with higher office. Senator Kennedy considered running once and did run in 1980, against a Democratic incumbent. Would Senator Kerry have voted for the Iraq War Resolution, trying to appeal to a broader constituency, if he was not thinking of presidential run in 2004? We do not need a senator who will tread water politically in hopes of making it to the White House instead of putting Massachusetts voters first. I fear Coakley has such ambitions.
Then there are the two outsiders, Steve Pagliuca and Alan Khazei. Both are refreshing in their refusal to accept funds from political action committees and lobbyists, but questions still remain. Pagliuca, the co-owner of the Celtics, is worth a large fortune. Does Massachusetts really need another fabulously wealthy senator representing it in the Senate? Alan Khazei has developed a strong grassroots campaign, but like two strong campaigners before him in Deval Patrick and Barack Obama, will he actually accomplish all he has promised on the campaign trail?
When reading about and trying to decide who to vote for, not a single one of these candidates can claim a strong advantage. There is plenty to be cautious about the two career politicians and doubts about the efficacy of the two outsiders. Usually I make my voting choices based on who I think who can do the most with least. In this election, we need a fresh perspective and I think either Pagliuca or Khazei can provide it. So who to go with? Well, Theo Epstein hosted a fundraiser for Khazei and baseball always trumps basketball in my eye.
Nick Milano is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.