What I'm Watching, Mass. Primaries

Hearing about very low turnout this morning, although I haven't heard from spots like Quincy, the Cape, or Worcester, where hot races might drive a little action. In any event, here are some thoughts on what I'm watching for in today's primaries across the Bay State, in specific races and for larger trends.

--Is he our Guy? The marquee statewide primary -- if one can say such a thing about an auditor's race -- is Suzanne Bump vs. Guy Glodis. (Mary Connaughton should dispatch of Kamal Jain handily, and while I think Steve Murphy is running better than many give him credit for, I don't see how he beats Steve Grossman.) I've long thought that Glodis would win this, in large part because I thought he would cut a 30-second version of that outstanding campaign video he showed at the state convention, and use his dough to saturate the airwaves for the final week. He didn't do that, presumably figuring that for the low-turnout primary his money would be better spent on targeted mailings, and lots of them (plus some radio ads). We'll see if his strategy works. Bump, meanwhile, is counting on three things: 1) Voters with little info relying on newspaper endorsements, which she nearly swept; 2) Mike Lake supporters switching to her to block Glodis; and 3) Women picking the woman's name.

--Call off the (Dela)hunt. Way back when, I predicted that Jeff Perry and Bill Keating would win the primaries, and face one another to succeed congressman Bill Delahunt. I'm not backing away from those picks -- but I'm not looking to place any large wagers on them either.

--Who's afraid of a primary? Massachusetts Democratic incumbents can typically relax, because fellow Democrats don't challenge their own, and the state's GOP is hapless. That sense will likely be reinforced if this year's intraparty bids fail badly -- so opponents of complacency will be interested to see if folks like Mac D'Alessandro (running against Cong. Steve Lynch), Charles Rudnick (against st. sen. Cynthia Creem), Hassan Williams (against st. sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz), Chris Walsh (against st. rep. Pam Richardson), Anthony Guardia (against st. rep. Mark Falzone), and Matthew Albanese (against st. rep. Christine Canavan) can at least come close enough to keep Dems on their toes in the future.

--Stepping up, or out? One theory is that Beacon Hill lawmakers running for re-election will be fine, because voters know them well enough to exempt them from their general belief that state legislators are all craven, corrupt, out-of-touch incompetents. But those running for another office, according to this line of thinking, will have trouble wooing voters outside their home districts, and/or convincing voters to put them into executive positions. Of course, another theory is that their name recognition, voter base, and fundraising advantage gives them a huge edge. There's a large roster of reps and senators looking for new jobs, including Jeff Perry, Robert O'Leary, Stephen Buoniconti, Michael Morrissey, Dan Bosley, Michael Rodrigues, Barry Finegold, Katherine Clark, James Welch, Arthur Tobin, and Michael Rush. (Plus others, like Karyn Polito, John Quinn, and Lew Evangelidis, who have no primary opposition).

--Who's the new Boston? Boston doesn't believe in Republicans, so today is effectively the general election for the four open seats to replace Brian Wallace, Marie St. Fleur, Willie Mae Allen, and Michael Rush. All four races have multiple strong, interesting candidates; the winners will immediately be important voices for Boston interests on Beacon Hill, and potential future players in Boston politics.

--Crazy, or crazier? One of the biggest surprises to me has been the state GOP's failure, in this one real chance for victories, to recruit serious candidates against any of the nine incumbents Democratic congressmen running for re-election. That has left the field wide open for any cranky conservative to jump into the primary with a legitimate shot at winning the nomination. The first question is whether the few Republican primary voters will be able to distinguish between the ones who will run decent, if underdog, campaigns, and the ones who will embarrass the party. The second question is whether those few voters will prefer the decent or the embarrassing. Incidentally, GOP insiders are also watching a few down-balance races nervously -- like Eric Dahlberg, who has a good chance of beating Susan Fargo, but might not make it past his primary with Tea Party activist (and third-time candidate) Sandy Martinez.

--Other mighty clashes. For pure lovers of old-fashioned Boston-area political dogfighting, there's no better race than the state senate rematch between Sal DiDomenico and Tim Flaherty. Eileen Donoghue and Christian Doherty are scorching the earth in the state senate race to replace the legendary Pangy. Both sides of the state senate race for O'Leary's seat have interesting character contrasts. There are an unusual number of good races for Governors Council, which is to say there are any. And, among the many interesting state rep races, the scrum for Robert Spillane's Worcester seat stands out as the one most likely to involve people attacking each other with signs before the polls close. And what more can you want?

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