The opponents in happier days (for Wilkerson, at least)
I’m trying to be
as objective as possible with this Wilkerson vs. Chang-Diaz showdown. I
recognize merits in both candidates, and I absolutely believe that the former
has the right to continue fighting for her seat; even if she lost the primary
But as I sat in
City Hall this past Saturday nursing a wicked debate hangover from the night
before, I thought what everyone slumping over folding tables at the election
department was thinking but that no one else said: Why the fuck do we have to
be here if the incumbent plans to run a sticker campaign regardless of the
I’m sure that
Wilkerson would allege that the occasion was to respect the rights of those
whose votes allegedly slipped through the system, but it was more likely a ploy
to attract media. And there we were; writers scoping for developments to jot
down, and broadcast crews hunting for anything sexy enough to aim cameras at.
The recount was as
exciting as a chess tournament; if not for the complimentary Butterfingers,
Laffy Taffy and Dunkin Donuts coffee, several people would have dozed off
during the four-hour plus long stand-off. There were no visible spats, and the
environment wasn’t as hostile as I expected, but the tension was palpable,
especially at tables where overzealous operatives continuously needed BOE referees
to call close decisions.
As readers likely
know by now, Chang-Diaz won the recount; in the end Wilkerson only gained 15 nods,
which still left her opponent on top by more than 200 votes. It would have been
interesting to see a recount of the entire district, but since election law doesn’t
require recounts for close races, the city only evaluates wards that candidates
cherry pick by gathering signatures (in this case, Wilkerson forced recounts in
three of her strongest wards, while Chang-Diaz only mobilized for one that
covers her Jamaica Plain base).
I’m told that Wilkerson and Chang-Diaz seethed beside one
another in 2006 as volunteers and officials counted ballots from their write-in
election. And while I didn’t see them shoulder up on Saturday, it was
intriguing to watch each candidate patrol the room; Wilkerson with her vicious
no-bullshit stare, and Chang-Diaz with noticeable outrage tucked beneath her camera-ready
There were some
exceptions, but the recount scene exemplified the racial scrum that this race is,
was, and is poised to further evolve into through October. Chang-Diaz supporters
are overwhelmingly young and white, while Wilkerson has a positively black base
catching her back. Understandably, there’s entitlement on each side; after all,
the district does belong to both sects.
lasted longer than I did, not even Wilkerson waited through the whole recount.
According to the Boston Globe, she left to knock on doors. I’m not saying that
she lied – maybe she really did intend to knock around, or maybe “door knocking”
is an all-applicable euphemism for guerilla-style campaigning – but I seriously
doubt that she walked house to house in this past weekend’s storms and drizzle.
One last gripe
before I go further with a story that already broke yesterday: I truly can’t
believe that in 2008 we’re still casting paper ballots that are kept in manila
folders, bound with rubber bands and stored in warehouses. The recount process
could only be less efficient if the state mandated the electorate to show at
City Hall on Saturday and recast votes.
Boston Board of
Election Commissioners Chairwoman Gerry Cuddyer said the recount cost Boston more than $5,800.
Since I’m not Howie Carr, I won’t spew a faux-populist rant about how wasteful
that is, or mention how much the security overtime likely added to the tally (I
actually enjoy the small miracle of bureaucrats toiling on Saturday). But I have
worked on several campaigns in the past, and half-a-day is mucho time to waste
with such a tight election right around the corner.
I suppose it
didn’t matter much for Wilkerson, though; she was so confident in the inevitable
outcome that she bounced early to knock on doors.