MassGOP Time Bombs?

Let's face facts, my Bay State Republican friends -- including you, Charlie Baker: in the best election cycle you've had in years to topple the Democratic Congressional incumbents, you find yourself three days away from the primaries knowing virtually nothing about your candidates for federal office.

I'm not talking about their positions on the issues -- which, as I've written before, are problematic enough. What I mean is that they haven't been vetted; certainly not at the level they will be if they become the party nominees.

The MassGOP, in what was to me one of the biggest surprises of this election cycle, failed to recruit any serious officeholders, or well-connected leaders in business or community, for any of the nine races against Democratic incumbents. That left things open for anyone to jump in, and try to take advantage of the anti-Democrat, anti-incumbent mood.

Most of these candidates have never held any elected office before, and certainly none involving high-profile campaigns -- in fact, many of them seem to have had little interest in politics until about two years ago. Most began their campaigns virtually unknown, even in their own communities, and certainly to the media and to Republican insiders.

None of that is inherently problematic; in fact, some think we should elect more 'average Joe' types to Congress. The problem is that all we really know about these folks is what they've chosen to tell us. If they have any skeletons -- large or small -- they probably haven't chosen to make those known. There has been very little serious media scrutiny, which is partly because of the shrinking media world but also because very few people are really all that interested in Republican primary candidates around here, especially obscure ones.

We have had some details poke through, here and there -- none necessarily politically fatal, but proving the point of how little we actually know about these guys.

The issues surrounding Bill Hudak, the likely primary winner in John Tierney's district, have been much discussed. Jon Golnik's 9-year-old drunk-driving arrest recently surfaced, along with an admission of pot-smoking that he now oddly denies. We've also learned -- again, just in the last two weeks -- that Golnik didn't cast a ballot in any election from 2000 to 2009; that led to the discovery that several of the candidates in that race to oppose Niki Tsongas did not bother to vote in the 2007 special election that first put her into office.

Likewise, a couple of weeks ago the fine reporter Tony Schinella decided to run Barney Frank challenger Sean Bielat's name through Lexus/Nexus, and discovered that he was a registered Democrat in upstate New York as recently as three years ago -- a stunner, not least because before Schinella's article I had never come across anything in Bielat's bio or literature suggesting that he had ever even lived in New York.

Now we learn that Richard Neal challenger Tom Wesley filed for bankruptcy in 2000 after his business failed. (I had been looking into this myself, and have spoken with Wesley about it.) He also appears to have walked away from thousands of dollars in owed taxes, which Wesley told the AP reporter, and me, that he has no recollection of.

These are not the long-shot no-hopers -- in fact, I would suggest that the reason these revelations have come to light is precisely because these candidates became worthy of press -- and opposition -- attention, precisely because they look likely to become the GOP nominees against the most potentially vulnerable incumbents.

But that's just the tip of the scrutiny the primary winners will face -- justly, in my opinion. And the state GOP leaders, and GOP candidates like Baker, really have no idea at all whether any of these guys will end up being huge embarrassments.

Of course, the funny thing is that in the one district with an open seat, and a real likely chance of GOP victory, the party is definitely going to nominate an embarrassment. The only question is whether it's the guy who allowed massive embezzlement to take place under his nose when he was state treasurer, or the guy who has yet to adequately explain (among other things) his behavior during wildly inappropriate strip-searches of teen girls.

As if to catch up to Jeff Perry (the latter option) in sleaziness, Joe Malone (the former option) has just announced with great pride the endorsement of "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio of (my former home) Maricopa County. Arpaio is a great hero to the anti-immigrant conservatives, so I suppose he might help Malone in the primary. But not only is he a crazed lunatic, he is also under federal investigation for alleged discrimination, unconstitutional search and seizures, and politically motivated prosecutions. In fact, barely a week before this announcement, the Feds filed suit against Sheriff Joe, accusing him of obstructing their investigation.

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