The Massachusetts political pipeline does seem to be opening up this year, uncorked at the top by the passing of Ted Kennedy, with a slight domino effect in lower level offices. David Bernstein predicts an unprecedented reshuffling in this year's upcoming political races in today's Boston Phoenix. Add to the mix the vacancy caused by 30-year veteran Joe DeNucci's departure from the Auditor's post, with at least 4 or 5 lower level pols contemplating moving up, which would create still more openings. For political junkies, this could be a banner year!
Most politicians are disinclined to tackle incumbents, so their upward mobility has been akin to watching the obituary pages to scope out when a house in a desirable neighborhood might go on the market. It has been a very slow process.
Bernstein speculates that Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Martha Coakley and Terry Murray will use their clout to support opposing candidates in some of these races. This is nothing new. Democratic party politics in Massachusetts has always been personality politics. We've had Bellotti Democrats, Dukakis Democrats, Ed King Democrats, Bob Quinn Democrats. You get the idea. You'd have to infer who stood for what from their affiliations. You couldn't say what the Democrats as a party stood for because often Republican candidates were ideologically more to left than Democrats. Republican U.S. Senator Ed Brooke's distinguished record was virtually indistinguishable from many on the other side of the aisle, (persuading conservative/libertarian Avi Nelson to challenge him from the right in the GOP primary in 1978). GOP Governor Frank Sargent was pro-consumer, pro-environment, etc and had little in common with Republicans on the scene today.
Brown v. Coakley has been easier to understand as a partisan slugfest! Each seems to fall in line with national party expectations. Yet, Brown's meeting yesterday with the Boston Herald editorial board (reported on by both Margery Eagan and Jessica Van Sack) suggests he's trying to position himself toward the center, believing if he makes himself more ideologically palatable, he could pull off an upset. It may be too little too late, unless Democratic voter fatigue, an election day blizzard and some of the Martha Coakley concerns raised by Joan Vennochi in today's Globe come together in a perfect storm.