Boston’s bustling election season heats up
Pundits comment on whether there are enough campaign dollars to go around
Several highly contested state election races are currently underway, with major players entering and leaving, long-held seats opening up and a series of crucial ballot questions up for vote.
In the race for governor, former Newton Mayor Setti Warren announced the end of his campaign last week, leaving just two Democratic candidates up for the nomination: Jay Gonzalez of Needham and Robert Massie of Somerville.
In a statement posted on his campaign website, Warren said he did not have enough funds to take on Governor Charlie Baker’s $7.9 million campaign account. Warren had only raised $51, 644.
Early in the campaign season, it became apparent during gubernatorial debates that the three candidates ran on similar progressive platforms, which may have contributed to Warren not being able to raise enough campaign money.
“When you have three Democrats running on similar platforms, reaching the same voter base and talking about the same issues, it becomes difficult for fundraising,” said Melvin Poindexter, national committeeman for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, in a phone conversation with the Banner. “You’re dividing a very narrow pie into three segments.”
With Warren out of the picture, many are left wondering whether his departure will bring an advantage to one of the candidates still running.
“Communities of color, progressive voters, moderate voters and the unenrolled. Out of those two [candidates], who can best reach those particular voter blocs?” said Poindexter.
3rd Congressional District
Campaign donations have become even more sparse with the unusual number of congressional races occurring at once, including the contest for the popular 3rd District seat left open after Rep. Niki Tsongas announced her retirement.
“What’s happening in the 3rd congressional district, with 12 candidates, it created a vacuum of campaign donors — because everyone is mostly focusing on that race,” said Poindexter. “How often do you have an open congressional seat? It’s very rare, so when the opportunity presents itself, there are going to be a lot of people going for it.”
The diverse range of contenders include Dan Koh, Mayor Marty Walsh’s former chief of staff; Rufus Gifford, the former U.S. ambassador to Denmark; Alexandra Chandler, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst; and Keith St. John, a Marlboro resident who owns an online sock company.
5th Suffolk District seat
With state Rep. Evandro Carvalho pursuing the Suffolk County District Attorney position, his 5th Suffolk seat is up for grabs. Currently in the race are perennial candidates Rev. Roy Owens and pastor Brad Howze, community organizer Liz Miranda, and unenrolled candidates Althea Garrison and Steven Wise.
Public records show that Howze, a Dorchester resident, was convicted as a Level 3 sex offender in 1999.
Roxbury resident Miranda entered the race on March 22, and spoke with the Banner about her campaign.
Currently the executive director for the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center, Miranda said she has been active in the community since she was 13 years old by serving on boards, working for local organizations and in youth leadership and philanthropic positions.
“I felt I had the right voice, I understand, I care and I’m prepared,” she said. “I’m a great coalition leader and I think the district needs someone who can represent and bring together the different parts of the district.”
Miranda said she would bring disparate parts of the district together through inter-district programming and large-scale community events.
The candidate said she also wants to continue the work that Carvalho instituted such as furthering transportation equity by increasing MBTA service in disadvantaged neighborhoods and pushing for criminal justice reform.
“I hope people will join me in this leap of faith and courage,” said Miranda. “I get things done. I hope I can bring to the State House this resident-led approach.”
With the recent passage of major criminal justice reform at the state level, the Suffolk County District Attorney seat abruptly vacated by longtime DA Dan Conley is another high-stakes race that many people are watching.
“When was the last time you had an open seat for DA?” said Poindexter. “Similar to the 3rd District seat, there are people running who wouldn’t otherwise have that chance to.”
Rachael Rollins, a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief legal counsel at Massport, former defense attorney Shannon McAuliffe, state Rep. Evandro Carvalho and prosecutor Greg Henning are gunning for the spot.
The primary election this year falls on Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day, possibly affecting voter turnout as Massachusetts residents settle back in after vacation.
Low turnout tends to favor white and/or incumbent candidates, which might affect Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim’s run against Secretary of State William Galvin, who has held that office for more than two decades, and At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s run against U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in the 7th Congressional District.
While turnout for the primary vote may be lower than normal, critical ballot questions might draw in voters to the November general election. Among the questions that could appear on the ballot: the so-called ‘millionaire tax’ that would create a 4 percent tax on income exceeding $1 million for education and transportation funds; a measure that would reduce the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent; and a measure to repeal a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in public places.
The Massachusetts General Court is currently deciding whether to include the $15-an-hour minimum wage ballot question in the general election.