Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Local election analysis

Full disclosure: I would have voted for Dan Sandell. I can’t say I agreed with him 100 percent on every issue, but I agreed with him most of the time. However, I’m a Vermonter and I’m not giving up my birthright to vote in Massachusetts.

That being said, I was impressed with the race and each of the candidates. They made themselves accessible and returned my calls very quickly.

I met Dan Melick first. When I was a freshman someone had gone around campus putting up posters accusing a student of being a robot. I wrote a satirical column about the posters and he came up to me at a “Mission: Improvable” show, congratulating me on it. That was back in the spring of 2008.

In early September I met him again, this time at a party on a Friday night. A mutual friend mentioned that he was running for State House and, on my third Miller High Life, I interviewed him right then and there. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like interviewing someone while buzzed. You feel good about yourself, confident in your skills and uninhibited about asking any question – either tough or stupid.

That’s how my career in political journalism got started.

Now, as soon as Melick told me who he was running against I knew I’d have to interview Ellen Story and Sandell. That’s just good journalism to talk to everyone.

The ink was barely dry on the page before Sandell e-mailed everyone to point out the fact that he was also a University of Massachusetts graduate, in addition to running against Story. I set up an interview with him for the following Wednesday and e-mailed Story. She called me in class one day and we arranged to meet at The Black Sheep on Friday.

They were great interviews and they all brought something different to the table. Story had political experience, Melick had idealism and Sandell had experience persuading jurors to vote one way or another. Aside from Story, Melick was the only one who had been elected to public office before, having done a year in the Amherst Town Meeting.

I don’t think Story lost any sleep over her challengers. Amherst is one of the most solidly Democratic towns in the state and even though Melick was running to her left on a lot of issues, he had no money and would have had to overcome student apathy and the town’s anti-student sentiment in order to pull off the upset. Sandell did a little more fundraising and, from what I saw, had the most active campaign. He was helped out by the UMass Republican Club and non-student volunteers; he had people at the intersection of Main Street and Pleasant Street holding signs; he had posters and he had lawn signs.

Like he told me last night, he didn’t lose because he didn’t work hard.

I don’t think Melick worked as hard as he could, although his resources were limited to $200 he loaned to himself. His website and campaign Facebook were not updated after mid-September and I never saw his people around town or on campus. Ultimately, I think he lacked organization. Sandell had the Republican Club to support him and do a lot of work, just as Story had the UDems to volunteer and go door-to-door.

My main criticism of Sandell’s campaign was that he was quick to go negative. He was very critical of Story and Melick in debates, but was especially harsh on Story. It doesn’t look very good for young men to be harsh on older women. I also don’t think he needed to attack Melick at all in debates.

Story had the worst campaign of the three. She talked to local reporters, but avoided many of the facilities younger people use to get their information. Her online presence is limited to a Facebook page, stories written about her from the last few months and critical blog posts from Blue Mass Group. She has no website and her records in the legislature are sparse and hard to find. She didn’t even fill out the issue questionnaire the Boston Globe sent out to everyone. “D” or no “D,” if she hadn’t been the incumbent since before the class of 2014 was born she would have lost badly.

I find it so ironic that Amherst would vote for someone because of their party affiliation and their status as an incumbent, but not on their record, or lack thereof. If the people of Amherst want to live up their ideals of democracy and liberalism, than I think they could start by putting more effort into deciding to whom they give their votes.

Matthew M. Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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