Of course there’s quite some distance to go yet with the primaries, but Martha Coakley announcing this morning, what with Charlie Baker already with his hat thrown in, gives us a pretty good sense of what the next governor’s race is going to look like. There could still be the dark horse with either party or a third party candidate to change the balance, but it sure looks to me like we are going to see two campaigners we know all too well campaign.
First ceding the point that I likely couldn’t get myself elected dog catcher in my own home town —running against a rabid dog, I’m thinking I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice to both of these early leaders.
First, for Charlie Baker I would prescribe some kind of sedative. The only press I’ve seen —I’ll admit I’m not terribly observant— has been along the lines of him countering charges Democrats had made about his handling of the Big Dig’s financing. “They are so last century” was Baker’s basic response —delivered with his trademark peavement. He wants to talk about the future, he says. The future talk is a good sign, if he can just manage to take his own advice. Make the campaign about the future and what you plan to do, Charlie. This should be a positive and constructive message. Your last campaign lacked only the trenchcoat to be a full fledged “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna takes it” shout fest. This may have played well on the talk radio circuit, but when it came down to policy particulars, where the anger should translate into action there was too much blurr and mystery —too much ‘tell you later.’ Indignation was all the rage when you ran against Deval Patrick. It didn’t get you where you wanted to go. This time try calm candor.
For Martha Coakley my advice would be almost the opposite. Go ahead, get a little angry. I liked what I heard this morning in the brief sound bite my radio station carried. She said she was running on a desire to see our state’s economy rebound in a way that is inclusive for working and struggling families. That resonated with me, but the question that first crossed my mind after my nodding agreement was about how she would fight that fight with the entrenched powers in the State House. Few can forget the calamity that was Martha Coakley’s last state wide campaign. She premised her electoral strategy on saying little and debating less, letting organization and political infrastructure be her advantage. She was the long loyal party stalwart accepting anointment. She ended up saying nothing and, in the actual debates, memorably having only a confused and timid argument with herself. A lot of people I know, who know Coakley and worked with her over the years, came away from that campaign aching. They knew her to be of greater substance. She’s got to trust that. She’s even got to trust it enough to step on a few toes at Party Breakfasts and Caucus gatherings —a little less establishment loyalty and a bit more avid activism. Because the fight she’s talked of fighting isn’t with Charlie Baker.
Changing the dynamic on Beacon Hill is a consistent theme for governor’s races here in Massachusetts, for about as long as I’ve been paying attention it’s been something candidates of every stripe claim to want, claim to offer. Real discourse about how we go about it would be a good discourse to have at. I know enough about both of these candidates to believe we could and should expect a substantive campaign on the real issues. They are both capable of meeting that obligation. Maybe it is ours to demand that they do.