May 2004 #4
Challenging Bay State status quo
can involve risk to life and limb
© by Barbara Anderson
The Salem News
Friday, May 28, 2004
Good Americans celebrate Memorial Day by honoring those who have served our country. We display our flags and perhaps attend a local parade. We also rejoice in the official beginning of summer.
For political activists, this is the beginning of the fall campaign, minus five months and counting. Time to put new bumper stickers on my car.
Last Tuesday was the deadline for this year's candidates to file nomination papers with the secretary of state. On the same day, Gov. Romney helped kick off 131 Republicans' legislative campaigns with a news conference and a fund-raising reception at the Parker House in Boston. He has committed to supporting candidates and creating, over the next few elections, a viable two-party system in Massachusetts.
Being nonpartisan, I hope there will be primary challengers, too. Competition is good. Beacon Hill could also use more fiscally conservative Democrats; and taxpayers would benefit by replacements for some of the weaker Republicans like those who recently refused to file the governor's income tax rollback as an amendment to the new budget. Third-party candidates would add spice to the season.
This year it may be possible to elect enough good newcomers to always get roll calls on important issues in both the House and Senate, and perhaps sustain some of the governor's vetoes. Already, just by offering candidates, Romney is getting some response from Democrats on his reform legislation relative to merger and pension issues. But his reforms that address union issues need strong legislators committed to good government because this year's campaign could be a battlefield.
A nasty, third-world kind of electoral politics surfaced on May 20 in Plymouth County.
Duncan, the Republican challenger to Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Therese Murray, held his public kickoff at a local school where there were a few Murray sign holders on site. So far, a normal democratic process.
But later when the candidate and his supporters went to a reception at a nearby private club, roughly 100 thugs were waiting for them bearing Murray signs and obscenity-laced opinions about Duncan's daring to run. Tim had his wife; his son, age 9; and his teenage daughter in his car. As he described it to me:
"Someone shouted, 'There he is," and people surrounded my car so that we could not move forward or backward without injuring someone. "People began rocking the car, spitting on the windshield and shouting profanities at me, my wife and my children. Several in the crowd had copies of a building permit I had filed for remodeling my house in Falmouth in 2002. The building permit had our home address and people pressed the paper against the glass in front of my wife and children and shouted, 'We know where you live!'
"After a minute or so, I inched the car forward and the crowd began to part to let us through. At the last moment, someone kicked the side of the car and hit the side mirror, knocking it in.
"Others who were attending the event were also harassed and threatened as they tried to enter the area. The Plymouth police were called ... they opened the drive so that cars and people could enter and leave the event safely. This required four or five Plymouth police officers to spend several hours that evening trying to maintain order."
As I learned of this, I was about to go on WRKO's "Pat Whitley Show" to discuss the income tax rollback, so I also told the assault story. The following week, Duncan was Pat's guest. Murray supporters called in denying that such things had happened - despite the video with audio and photos taken after the police arrived when things calmed down somewhat.
My favorite is the two guys in union caps, one holding a "This is Murray Country" sign with the other extending the middle-finger salute.
One caller tried the spin that "we know where you live" was not a threat, but merely a reference to the fact that the Duncans have a home outside the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate district. They do have a place in Cambridge, where Tim's wife is a professor at Harvard Medical School, specializing in melanoma. Funny thing, though; the building permit was for their home in Falmouth, and the threat was clear.
Another argued that Duncan had nothing to complain about because "you got out unscathed," to which Tim responded sarcastically, "Thank you for not hurting my family."
There were also anti-Romney signs declaring, "We need a new governor," at the event. The thugs were there not to support their candidate, but to try to intimidate the governor's pro-reform candidate. The brotherhood mentality, necessary when unions were facing armed Pinkertons in the 19th century, is now just mob bullying directed at women and children. How far the courageous have fallen.
I've been told that after the Whitley show, Murray's office "was bombarded with calls." I hope the word gets out that this kind of publicity will only hurt the unions' candidates.
It would help if Romney went public and declared that he is determined to protect his challengers from assault and defend the democratic process.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.