Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Smulowitz's Victory: A Shot Across the Bow

The big theme of Dr. Peter Smulowitz's campaign, the one which led him to victory, was the question of independence in the State House -- where backroom deals by the Speaker doesn't control the legislature's votes and behavior. From Smulowitz's campaign manager:
“They’re looking for individual leadership,” Wheeler said. “It’s what we campaigned on the entire time, showed voters the entire time and will continue to show voters the entire time.”
Lida Harkins, his opponent, was the Majority Whip leader under both Finneran and DiMasi and continues to be among the House's leadership. As such, she's gone along to get along and people just didn't like that. She lost.

Will state legislators learn the lesson?

Ellen Story, a Rep out of Amherst, clearly hasn't. From today's SHNS (sorry, can't link to it):
APRIL 14, 2010 -- As the House moved Tuesday toward passing legislation sanctioning two casinos and four racetrack slot machine facilities, likely with a veto-proof majority, one member of Speaker Robert DeLeo’s leadership team said the prospect of losing influence in the House prompted her to give up her longstanding opposition to expanded gambling and predicted “consequences” for opponents of the bill.

“After 17 years of being on the outside, I finally have a seat at the table,” said Rep. Ellen Story, one of DeLeo’s four division leaders. “I’m part of the group of eight people that meets with him two hours every week, and this bill was going to pass. And for me to vote a symbolic and meaningless ‘no’ seemed like a foolish thing to do on my part. I think I bring something to the table in these small meetings, and there are other issues besides gambling that I care very much about.”

Story said, “Since the speaker has been here, there have been no consequences for anybody who did not vote with the speaker. My sense is that this is the bill he has cared about more than any other bill. My sense is that there may well be consequences for people voting against this bill, particularly people in his inner circle.”
Not exactly a profile in courage in that moment. Lida Harkins did exactly the same thing. I don't think Smulowitz won the election because of the casino issue -- but he won it because he stood up and told people he wouldn't be the kind of legislator who votes a particular way because that's what he was told to do, or because that's what the special interests were offering millions for.

People in America right now are desperately thirsty for change. They're pissed. And it's across the board -- not at all ideological. That was what fueled Obama's campaign and it's what's fueling the Tea Party movement. It's also what's fueling Peter Smulowitz. You'd think that the legislature would have learned its lessons after all the ethical lapses, but they didn't. People want a government that works for them, not the one who wields the gavel and not the special interests who are spending millions for their causes.

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