When there's four candidates running to be the next Ted Kennedy, it's certainly understandable that the choice should be difficult. For the record, this is the first major race in which I have purposefully tried to stay uninvolved in a long time, wanting to glimpse this race like a regular voter -- instead of in a campaign role or as a volunteer. In that role, I've come to at least some final decisions.
As much as I expected to take a long time to make a decision in this race, two candidates helped me narrow down my choices. In Steve Pagliuca, we have a candidate who's tried to run as a liberal, but has a record that looks mighty similar to Mitt Romney. Additionally, at the Boston Herald Online and elsewhere, I've seen Pagliuca ads that say in giant letters, "Pags=Jobs." That naturally lead me to a question -- more jobs or less?
Pagliuca's company, Bain Capital, which is also Mitt Romney's company, has a history of buying up profitable businesses, slashing workforce, research and development, and making a giant profit off of those businesses regardless of whether they do well or not, because they sell those companies in the short term. Because of the short-term focus of Bain's business, there's actually a financial incentive for people like Pagliuca to set up these companies to fail. Many of those companies not only do decidedly worse after being accosted by Bain, with many fewer jobs, but they get saddled with the debt Bain used to buy them in the first place. That's right: Bain doesn't always pay for their takeovers, they make the companies they take over pay for it. Only in America.
Pagliuca's willingness to spend an enormous amount of his personal wealth in this race offers three possible movites in running: this is a vanity campaign, special interests or he's suddenly had a complete change of heart, after all these greedy years. Will anyone who knows about his business background be willing to take a bet on option number three?
Martha Coakley, on the other hand, has a fairly long record of service (though only two years as Attorney General), but not a particularly distinguished one. Routinely, she's sided against justice in order to appear more 'tough on crime.' In the Fells Acre case, she sided against a parole board's unanimous decision when the board itself consisted of three former prosecutors, two former state troopers and a former probation officer. She sided with a great deal of Southern States in arguing that the federal government shouldn't be able to force states to have new DNA evidence tested that could potentially prove prisoners innocent, even when they're on death row.
She also jumped when Senator Murray told her to, creating an expensive wire-tapping bill that would pave the way to purportedly clear the consciences of any state legislator who switches their vote on slots, without informing the Senate President that creating casinos will greatly increase crime and desperation, wire-tapping bill or not: This was not an example of an Attorney General deserving a profile in courage.
Finally, I fear her ability to transition from her duty to obey the law as a prosecutor to creating it in the Senate; her words and actions surrounding the Pitts-Stupak amendment only worsened those fears, showing a complete lack of understanding in legislative nuance. She said if she were in the House, she would have voted against the health care bill because it included the anti-choice amendment, even though that one vote would have killed health care reform and the anti-choice amendment wouldn't have passed in the Senate. Now she wants to get into the Senate to vote for the very bill which she would have killed, had she been in the House. She may one day be a good vote for Governor, but she's made it clear that's she's a bad vote for the Senate.
From this point forward, coming to decisions gets a lot harder. The choice between Michael Capuano and Alan Khazei is a difficult one. Both have worked tirelessly on behalf of causes that directly help those who have the least in life. Both have a great deal of national experience, one as a longtime member of the House and the other as someone who co-founded the national (and beyond) program City Year. Both would be strong progressives in the US Senate that Massachusetts could be proud of, though stylistically they would be different.
Capuano is very much a bread-and-butter liberal politician who's proven himself with years of service in the House. We need more of these kinds of people. The Globe, in their endorsement of Khazei, tried to come down on Capuano as a divisive career politician who was engaging in class warfare. As far as I see it, he was doing in the House the work that Ted Kennedy had done in the Senate for 47 years. Michael Capuano is far from divisive, he's just stood up for the kinds of people who have been attacked year after year since Ronald Reagan came into power in 1980. No one can replace Ted Kennedy and Michael Capuano is no Ted Kennedy, but stylistically, no one comes closer to him in this race.
Capuano is a bonafide constituent service guy who's willing to take the tough votes on issues that matter most. How can someone vote against that? Unfortunately, for Michael Capuano, Alan Khazei convinced me to do exactly that. Since no one can replace Ted Kennedy, it's important to vote for the person who has a special, unique talent that can't be learned or replicated and would be put to the service of the middle and working class. In that regard, Alan Khazei has proven himself.
At first, when I heard Khazei was running for Senate, I didn't know much about him or City Year. Among the things that I didn't know was the fact that if there weren't such a thing as City Year, there never would have been an Americorp. Not only was City Year a model for Americacorp, but if it weren't for Alan Khazei, there probably wouldn't be an Americorp after its creation, because Alan Khazei led the fight to save its funding (along with City Year's) when it came under a fierce attack by the the GOP while Bush was still in charge and the Senate belonged to the Republicans. Many Republicans hated Americorp and City Year, so sticking it to these programs was actually a surprisingly high priority at the time. Khazei showed an ability to rally people from across the country to save those programs, even reaching across the isle to get some quasi-moderate Republican Senators to come along, in true Ted Kennedy fashion.
Furthermore, Alan Khazei's willingness to get into issues on the stump that aren't directly related to the campaign show he's willing to stick up for what he thinks is right, regardless of the political consequences. In a country where politicians have become so vanilla and risk adverse, it's a particularly refreshing political trait. Alan Khazei's unique leadership and creativity, combined with his political courage, are at a drought on DC's Capitol Hill. It's important enough to get me past the few issues I disagree with Khazei on.
Either Michael Capuano or Alan Khazei is a good vote come election day, but Alan Khazei is the best choice, because voting for him isn't a choice at all. Should Alan Khazei win, we're still getting Michael Capuano, just in the House, where he'll not only continue to vote in the best interest of his voters, but continue to be an influential leader who's built up a lot of seniority in a day and age when Massachusetts is about to lose at least one of it's only ten remaining House seats. That may do little to console Michael Capuano should he lose and Alan Khazei win, but ultimately this election is about service -- and the people of Massachusetts are best served by having both in office, Alan Khazei being in the Senate.