Listen! The wind is rising, and the
air is wild with leaves, we have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves!
— Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940),
Italian-born British poet
Listen! Debates are scheduled, the airwaves
are wild with ads ...
I love campaign debates, which I look forward
to watching on October eves every other year and am excited
about the Salem News' Hudak-Tierney congressional debate
scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 14, in Beverly. I'm not so
excited about debates on October early-mornings.
State Sen. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn, has agreed
to only one debate, at a Lynn Chamber breakfast, at 7:30 a.m.
Oct. 15. Sleepy voters who want to attend must pay $35. Unless
we are being served a couple of lobsters for breakfast, we are
apparently going to pay extra to hear this one-only debate,
which seems to limit democratic participation in my senatorial
My partner Chip Ford, who grew up in Lynn, is
unhappy about paying admission to a debate. He recalls the rough
and tumble politics of the old days, when McGee's feisty father
was the state representative from Lynn, who eventually became
Chip notes that Christopher Dent — McGee the
Younger's Republican challenger — is a Marine Corps veteran like
McGee the Elder, and not afraid to engage. He wants to have free
debates in Lynn, Marblehead and Swampscott. McGee is apparently
hoping for a quiet race that he can win on name recognition
Republican congressional candidate Bill Hudak
wants more debates too, and has offers from Salem State, Gordon
College, Merrimack College and Essex South Medical Society,
among others, to host one. The medical society debate would be
on ObamaCare, which Hudak tried to get Tierney to debate before
he voted for it last year.
Both Beacon Hill and Congress are on vacation
now until the election, so there's no reason that incumbents
can't agree to defend their records at more public forums.
Well, maybe one reason: They can't defend
those voting records. This might explain why many incumbents'
campaigns this year are primarily attacks on their challengers.
The worst campaign debate of this or any
season took place on Fox 25 last night, as John Tierney was
allowed by moderator Maria Stephanos to talk over his opponent
for a full 10 minutes. Unable to defend overlooking his wife's
illegal tax activities, Tierney sneered and snarled his way
through the first debate, which followed the scandal eruption
earlier in the week.
The strangest "campaign plan" this year is
the Democrats' use of a
particular ad across the country that accuses Republicans of
pledging to drive jobs overseas. I've seen this ad used against
both Jeff Perry, who's running for the South Shore seat in
Congress, and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker.
At first I was puzzled: Who would believe
that any candidate would take a pledge like that?
It eventually dawned on me that the
Democrats, under the name Campaign for Massachusetts Future, are
attacking Republicans for taking the
Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, in
which they promise not to vote to raise taxes. Apparently there
are some federal tax loopholes used by companies that are
involved with exporting jobs, though what the connection is I'm
not sure. I can't imagine how it applies to a potential
governor's pledge not to raise income, sales or property taxes.
It's not surprising that Democrats don't know
how the Taxpayer Protection Pledge works; none of them running
here this year have taken it. It actually does allow loopholes
to be closed if other taxes are cut at the same time, avoiding a
net tax increase.
So if Baker closed a loophole, then kept
Deval Patrick's broken pledge on property-tax relief, or the
Legislature's longtime promise to roll back the income tax rate
to 5 percent, he'd still be honoring the pledge he has taken. So
what's with the dumb ad?
No other ads have really caught my attention
yet. I've been watching mini-debates moderated by Jon Keller (WBZ),
Emily Rooney (WGBH), Janet Wu and Ed Harding (WCVB), and Jim
Braude (New England Cable News).
Voters are also becoming acquainted with
candidates for the Massachusetts constitutional offices on these
stations and on many talk radio shows, where legislative
candidates also call in. My radio is always playing either WRKO
(680 AM) or WTKK (96.9 FM).
Many of us already know for whom we are
voting. But for people who are just tuning in to the 2010
election, debates are much better decision-making aids than paid
Listen! The wind of change is rising ...