Independent candidates: What’s the point?
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, October 2, 2014


Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.
Hal Borland

Thank you, Hal Borland; that is a wonderful reminder for those who begin dreading winter the minute the sun crosses the equator. We don't have to shovel snow yet; I just have to replace the screens with storms and slap some stain on the dried-out deck, then I can take a break to have lunch in the sun with my chrysanthemums and golden-orange maple tree.

But it's a short break. To paraphrase Hal: Every two years, autumn campaign season offers the most to man and requires the best of him. (Note: "man" to me is just short for human, male and female).

In my younger days I barely had time to notice the season, as I worked long hours on initiative petitions that would be on the November ballot.

However, I do have great memories of October media tours to newspaper offices across the state on glorious sunny autumn days. Nowadays I just enjoy short drives to candidate events in my area: the primary election night rally with Richard Tisei at the Waterfront Hotel in Salem, and a fundraiser last week in Lynnfield; a beautiful late afternoon fundraiser with Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito and a sunset event with Scott Brown, visiting Massachusetts friends who support his New Hampshire U.S. Senate campaign.

The farthest I had to drive was a block party at the home of Tom Lyons, running for state representative from Danvers, Middleton and West Peabody; it rained and turned into a cozy garage

 party. I had an interesting conversation about books we've both read with the pre-teen son of Mike Morales, candidate for Register of Probate. Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, was guest speaker; now it's he and his Tank the Automatic Gas Tax campaigners who run around the state selling a "yes" vote on their ballot question. I just put the bumper sticker on my car for local advertising, along with "I heart Prop 2½", and of course the names of my favorite candidates.


Election year autumn requires so much from these candidates and initiative petition leaders -- and requires that the rest of us make the effort to choose the best person for whom to vote, and decide the correct answer on the ballot questions. Autumn, every other year, requires the best of us, as citizens and voters, to make our state and federal governments respect us.

So, I move on from attending candidate events, with the food and good company, to watching candidate debates. A gubernatorial "forum" was held Monday, in Springfield, but available on radio and on WGBH-TV, where I watched it. When the hour was over, I wished I'd actually been in western Massachusetts so I could run to the Berkshire Hills, looking for a cave in which to hide for the next five weeks. On the other hand, I figure we've hit bottom early and the debates can only get better.

Here is one common problem: Autumn politics attracts some of the worst kind of politician, the ego or ideology-driven "independents" who cannot possibly win but can affect just enough votes to elect the worse of the viable candidates. Yes, I recognize that our political system allows third-parties, but I just want them to explain this to me: What's the point?

So there they were on the Springfield stage, lined up in alphabetic order: Charlie Baker, Martha Coakley, polling in the latest Suffolk poll at Baker 43.2 percent, Coakley 43.8 percent; and three more people who, along with "Undecided" or "Don't give a fig" get the remaining 13 percent among them. There's Evan Falchuk, personably incoherent liberal so more likely to take voters from Coakley; Rev. Lively, preaching the Bible; and Jeff McCormick, a businessman who seems to agree with traditional Republicans on issues -- so what is he doing opposing Baker now instead of in the primary?

Falchuk wants driver tolls on state border crossings. Everyone but Lively was concerned about "global warming." Everyone but Lively seemed to want more spending, on higher education, pre-school, infrastructure. The moderator didn't ask about raising taxes to cover all this. Lively said he wants to cut taxes and the size of government.

Please don't think that because I would agree with Lively on more issues than with the other candidates, I'd ever support a Bible-thumping social conservative for governor, even if his inexperience wasn't already a disqualifier.

Audience asked about letting pharmacies dispense medical marijuana; good question. No one had a good answer.

McCormick's most memorable line was: "Great companies are built by great people." How fatuously insightful.
My theory is that most businessmen running as independents have been schmoozed by Democrats offering a job in the winning Democrat's administration if the spoiler helps throw him the election, or, delusional patsies who have been schmoozed by either Democrats or personal enemies of the Republican candidate into believing that they can actually win as an independent.

McCormick added nothing to the debate, which was already mostly nothing, though perhaps useful as an introduction to all the candidates if you'd never seen them before. I heard a lot of blah-blah-blah; Baker at least answered the specific questions, made a good point about lost opportunities in last four years; the others mostly said whatever odd or practiced thing leapt to mind. No follow-up, no chance to argue or rebut.

One, only one, lively moment, when Baker went after Lively for his opposition to gays, seemingly aware of the young people in the audience. Throughout, Coakley remembered to present that phony-looking smile every 15th second.

I am voting against Coakley which means I am voting for Baker whether I'm impressed with his debate performances or not. Maybe this means I can spend more time just watching the autumn leaves fall.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

More of Barbara's Columns

Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665