Here in Massachusetts it is not uncommon for Republicans to disguise themselves as Democrats.
We saw a spectacular example of this in the strange case of Democratic State Rep. Brian Golden. Golden was reelected, unopposed last year — but he resigned on January 5th, and took a job with the Romney administration before he could even be sworn in for his new term. Apparently Golden’s long record of Republican behavior finally caught up with him. Golden campaigned for George W. Bush in 2000 and again in 2004 in New Hampshire — in the company of Governor Mitt Romney. He also wrote a supportive op-ed piece for the Manchester Union Leader, the largest newspaper in New Hampshire, and gave an interview to rightist magazine, The National Review, attacking the religious faith of John Kerry.
Enough was enough. Democratic activist Tim Schofield announced a primary challenge for 2006 soon after Golden’s reelection — and raised $10,000 before Christmas. Since Golden’s resignation others have jumped into the race for the now open seat from the 18th Suffolk district, which comprises parts of Allston, Brighton, and Brookline. But Schofield, who was the campaign treasurer for Golden’s 2002 primary challenger David Friedman, has a big head start and is the apparent front runner in what promises to be a multi-candidate field in the March 15th Democratic primary. (The general election is April 12th.) He has already launched a campaign web site and hired a campaign manager.
Schofield an attorney in private practice in Boston, is a graduate of the Boston College Law School and served in the U.S. Army in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. Prior to law school, Schofield was a legislative aide to U.S. Rep. Dick Swett, (D-NH).
I talked to Schofield recently about his candidacy and the race.
Schofield is seeking to establish himself as the clear progressive in the field. Being a progressive “is incredibly liberating” he says. “I can talk to people about the issues that matter.”
“I grew up in a low income, blue collar family,” he says. “I joined the Army at 17. There was no money for private schools. Public schools have been crucial in my life.”
When it comes to being a progressive, Schofield says, “It means being prochoice and pro marriage equality, but its a lot more than that.”
“My belief,” Schofield explains “is that just because I have made a certain level of success in my life, doesn’t mean I don’t want to turn around and help the next person coming up the ladder. We as a society are supposed to be doing this together.”
As part of this, he sees an active role for government as a “counterbalance” to corporate power. He was startled to learn while in law school, that corporations are legally obliged to maximize profits. This, he believes, exacerbates the greed in human nature. Therefore, he sees a strong need for government oversight and regulation to protect the public interest.
This year his campaign themes are “serious health care reform,” increased funding for public education, and economic development. While he acknowledges that, “We have responsibilities and financial limits as a society,” he also says that “it’s a matter of priorities” as to what gets funded and to what degree. Schofield is opposed, for example, “to anything that drains resources from the public schools.” He therefore favors a moratorium on new charter schools. “Its been about ten years of this experiment,” he says, recalling that the original idea was to use charters as “laboratories” for the benefit of public schools. “So lets pause and see what lessons we have learned and see if we can apply those lessons to the public schools.”
Other announced candidates so far include Joe Walsh Jr. executive secretary of the Allston Board of Trade; Michael Moran, a political consultant with Newgrange Consultants Group who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 1994 and 1998; and Greg Glennon, an aide to Golden. Glennon, like his former boss, has a Republican side. In fact, Glennon was a registered Republican two years ago and poised to run for Congress against Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano. Apparently the only reason Glennon didn’t run was that he didn’t get enough certified signatures on his petition.
Schofield told me that by his analysis of the likely low-turnout race, the winner in the so-far, four candidate field, (the filing deadline is February 1) will need between 1200 and 1400 votes to win. The winner of the Democratic primary will probably prevail in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. Schofield feels that the 1900 people who voted for Friedman (who is backing Schofield this time) in 2002, provides a strong likely base of support.
Special elections are interesting and important for a number of reasons. Incumbents rarely lose, so an open seat is a rare opportunity. But special elections being run singly, without statewide or national candidates to draw interest, tend to be very low-turnout. Twenty-five percent of the registered voters is typical for a special election for state representative in Massachusetts. Special election campaigns are also much shorter, and run on much less money.
This year, because there are three contests to be decided on the same day, and one is for the vacancy left by the resignation of former House Speaker Tom Finneran, there may be more statewide media interest than might usually be expected. But these three races may generate wider interest for another reason: They may signal a broader ideological realignment in the House. The departure of Finneran, (whose alliance of conservative Democrats and Republicans originally won him the speakership), and the succession of progressive Sal DiMasi, means that conservative Finneran loyalists no longer rule the House and most of its committees. Since all three seats are being vacated by conservative Democrats, and there are strong progressive candidates running in all three districts, this is a golden opportunity for progressives to increase their numbers. All three districts are strongly Democratic, so the winners of their respective Democratic primaries will most likely be the new state representatives from their districts.
The fields for the primary in each district are still forming. The filing deadline is February 1st.